A common question among both Christians and non-Christians, especially in the US, is whether the Big Bang and multi-billion-year age of the universe contradicts the Bible. There is a broad range of opinion on this subject among committed Bible-believing Christians. In many people’s minds “science and the Bible” means this topic (plus evolution), so this book cannot be complete without discussing it.
Many Christians are convinced that the Bible says, in Genesis 1 and elsewhere, that God created the entire universe in six 24-hour days less than 10,000 years ago. This is called “recent creation(ism),” “young-earth creationism,” “strict creationism,” “literal creation,” or “scientific creationism.” It is considered by its advocates to be the only truly “literal interpretation” of the Biblical creation account, and also the Flood account. They link it to many other essentials of the faith, and consider it an essential, crucial, inextricable linchpin of the entire Christian faith.
In ch. 6, I, are listed the basic scientific evidences that seem to indicate that the universe is about 15,000,000,000 years old, and the Earth just under 5,000,000,000. More are listed in II, C below. So this is a direct conflict between (recent-creationist) theology and science (not between the Bible and nature; see ch. 5, I, F). They disagree by six zeroes. Which one is wrong? Have we misunderstood the Bible or nature? Or is the Bible itself actually wrong about this?
Though I have not made it my career, my background in atmospheric science and astronomy makes me especially qualified, interested, and unable to avoid the subject. But I do not wish this discussion to be merely pitting my opinions and qualifications against others’. In some cases that is unavoidable. But in most cases it is a matter of recent-creationists’ own contradictory statements, and an appeal to the reader’s common sense.
If you have read the rest of this book first, and not jumped directly to this chapter, you know I am firmly committed to the inerrancy of Scripture including its teaching about God’s creative work. Ch. 6, sec. I and II discuss God’s creation of the universe and living things respectively. I reject an evolutionary origin of living things on Earth, and accept a time-span of billions of years, and the Big Bang origin of the universe. So my doubts about recent creation are not based on acceptance of evolution, nor on any anti-scriptural or anti-supernatural bias, nor on a desire or hope to gain the acceptance of the scientific community. I have no professional scientific career to protect. I am striving in good conscience to find a conclusion consistent with all the truth of which I am aware, in keeping with the principles in ch. 5, I, F.
My comments refer mostly to the prominent leaders, speakers, and writers who propagate the recent-creation viewpoint. Their followers are sincerely convinced by their arguments. I was brought up on recent creation myself, and was once a convinced follower. That and the gap theory were then the only options in circulation among evangelical believers. But as I learned more about God’s creation, beginning when I was in college in the mid-1960s, I gradually, and painfully, realized the purported evidences and reasons had many serious errors. I thank the Lord that this was not my sole, or even primary, basis of faith in the Bible, and that I slowly worked out a satisfactory alternative in the 70s and 80s. But it was not easy, and I found no books that provided one, though many books had helpful contributions. Many other people were also dissatisfied with anything they could find, and asked me if I could recommend something better, but I could not. I had neither the time nor the ability to write something better myself. Finally beginning in the late 80s some books were published which came to the same conclusion I had, and a few were published earlier but somehow had not gained wide enough circulation to come to my attention. In the 90s it became a rapidly growing movement.
This raises an embarrassing dilemma of identification. How should we label ourselves? Are we creationists? That label has come to be associated with the young-earth position, because that is what they call themselves, so it will cause misunderstanding if we call ourselves creationists. Yet we are unwilling to concede that label to them alone, but there is not yet a generally-accepted alternative term. So in the following discussion I must expend considerable extra ink and paper, and usually refer to them by the full label “recent-creationist,” not merely “creationist.”
Unfortunately this has become a point of considerable tension and conflict among Christians all of whom are aiming to serve and honor the Lord. Accusations fly both directions, of unfaithfulness to Scriptural principles and ignorance or dishonesty about scientific facts. My criticism of recent creation has even strained two of my own most treasured friendships, and introduced strain in many other acquaintances. This is sad.
When the subject of recent creation comes up, some Christians are amazed to think that anyone could even claim to believe the Bible and doubt recent creation. But other equally committed Bible-believing Christians, including career missionaries, respond “Does anyone still believe that?” So there are several isolated worlds even within the evangelical Christian community. Those who are unaware of this subject need to be aware of the issues that are of such great concern to so many others.
To whom am I writing? First, to convinced recent-creationists. Very few of them will change their opinion if they read this. The recent-creationist movement will not come to an end because of my comments. But I hope those who read this will at least be clearer on the issues and facts involved.
Secondly, to confused Christians, searching for the truth, and wondering what and whom to believe and how to answer questions for their friends and children. I hope to help them clarify what the facts are, so as to draw a conclusion with which they can feel satisfied. Of course, if the purported basis of recent creation, and rejection of the Big Bang, is found to be invalid, then it might be reasonable not to believe it, but that is the reader’s own personal decision. As for the Big Bang, it is a scientific theory, and will with time stand or fall on its own scientific merits. Our faith in the Bible need not become dependent on it.
Thirdly, to offended non-Christians, who are convinced by Christians, who ought to know, that the Bible teaches recent creation. They feel that this is irreconcilable with many facts about nature, and therefore they cannot believe the Bible. They are unconvinced by recent-creationists’ attempt to resolve this conflict by reinterpreting the facts of nature. I hope to remove this stumbling-block for them, by providing an alternative interpretation of the Bible, and I hope that they will then decide to place their faith in the Bible and its Lord.
Most non-Christians resolve the conflict by saying the Bible must be wrong and science must be right, and thus this is a major and genuine stumbling-block in the way of their deciding to trust the God of the Bible. Many conservative Christians resolve this conflict by saying the Bible (to be precise, this interpretation) must be right, and therefore science must be wrong about the Big Bang and the age of the universe. They claim to have found much scientific evidence in support of their position, and they accuse the scientific community of bias if not outright dishonesty. Many other Christians are caught in the middle, believing they see errors in both evolution and recent creation. But they have no better solution, and their own faith in the Bible and courage in sharing the gospel is seriously weakened. We must deal with this problem.
Some people have advised me to simply avoid the subject, or to say less about it, so as not to offend my Christian brothers and sisters who are committed to recent-creationism. That is a valid point, but I have yet to see it balanced with an equally necessary concern for so many others who are offended by the flaws of recent-creationism. They are important too. I doubt any recent-creationist’s relationship with the Lord will be damaged by my comments, but many people’s relationship with the Lord seems to have suffered damage due to recent-creationism. More about this in II, A on the results of recent-creationism.
The most influential center of the recent-creation movement is the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), near San Diego, California, whose founder and unchallenged dominant leader is Dr. Henry Morris. His son, Dr. John Morris, has succeeded him to the leadership of ICR. The movement includes many regional creationist centers in the US, and the Creation Research Society with its publication, The Creation Research Society Quarterly. There is a creationist organization in Australia, which produces the popular quarterly Creation Ex Nihilo, and also a related technical journal. Creationist organizations have been established in several other countries, with an especially large one in Korea. There were large creationism conferences in the US in 1990, 1994, and 1998. There have been several hundred books, videotape and audio-tape series, and thousands of training institutes, lectures, radio programs, and debates throughout the US and many other countries, especially beginning in the 1960s. The movement has historical roots long before that, but that is beyond the scope of this book.
One life is too short to read all of the literature recent-creationists have produced; I have read what seem to be the most representative and influential ones. I attended the 5-day Summer Institute at ICR in 1980 and 1995.
A major segment of the evangelical, or conservative, Christian community has enthusiastically endorsed the recent-creationist movement as an essential aspect of the defense of the faith. This includes many independent churches, such as Dr. James Kennedy’s (Evangelism Explosion) Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Florida, and Chuck Smith’s Calvary Chapel in southern California. It includes some entire denominations, the largest of which is the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches. It includes Bob Jones University, Liberty University, and many smaller educational institutions, plus several home-schooling curriculum producers including the widely used A Beka. The Institute of Basic Life Principles, led by Bill Gothard, advocates the recent-creationist viewpoint. Individual supporters of recent-creationism include Dr. Woodrow Kroll, the third leader of Back to the Bible Broadcast. These are all outstandingly good people with a wide and blessed ministry. The recent-creation movement has a far-reaching beneficial influence. What are we to think of it?
The following is not a “vicious attack on recent creation,” though its advocates feel like it is. I have been told that I am hypercritical and disdainful toward recent-creationists, and they must be thick-skinned to talk to me. All I can do is let the reader judge whether this is true. As discussed later, recent-creationists are less than complimentary toward those who do not agree with them. I do not intend to take that as an excuse for responding in kind; the Bible forbids that (Rom. 12:14-21, etc.) and in morals in general two negatives do not make a positive. Whether this chapter is vicious and disdainful, and whether it is true, are two separate questions.
My objective is not to prove that recent creation is false, nor that any particular alternative such as the Big Bang is true. My focus is not on recent creation, but on the case usually presented for it. I simply point out many things that do not make sense. I aim to discourage the propagation of false information and logic in connection with recent-creationism, present one possible alternative, and thus help many people, both Christian and non-Christian, relieve the “Bible vs. science” tension they presently feel. This is neither vicious nor an attack. The leaders have had abundant opportunity to reconsider and revise these deficiencies in their presentations. I wrote my first letter to recent-creationist authors in 1972, and have written many since, and received replies that mostly missed the points I raised. Many others, including some who accept recent creation, have also tried in various ways to communicate similar concerns to them.
There are details that I still haven’t solved, particularly in geology. Some recent-creationists have chided me for criticizing some aspects of their position when I don’t have a better one yet, and they say I should at least give them credit for trying. They seem to be saying any answer is better than none, though no one would say it that explicitly. But we should be able to live with some unanswered questions; that is better than propagating answers that are false. You don’t have to open your own restaurant before you are entitled to point out that there is poison in someone else’s food.
I What recent creation is: An introductory summary
I begin with a summary of the recent creation position and the basis frequently given for it. This is condensed from my memory of many books, periodicals, and lectures. I do not have the time or resources to track down a source for every detail, and that is not necessary. After this introductory summary, I discuss it carefully. This approach requires quite a bit of flipping pages back and forth, but an uninterrupted presentation is the only way to do justice to the full recent-creationist position and its supporting arguments. I am trying to present it as fairly and favorably as possible, just as its advocates do. I am not intentionally distorting or caricaturing it. The reader will have to judge whether I have succeeded. We all have more important things to do than knock down straw men.
Any individual recent-creationist would disagree with some details in this summary, but it represents a broad basic consensus in the creationist movement. It at least represents recent creation as it has been and still is widely publicized in the last few decades.
There are three main aspects of the basis given for recent creation: the Biblical basis, the scientific basis, and the scientific objections to long time periods and the Big Bang.
I should state in advance that my conclusion is that nearly all of this basis given for recent creation is either factually false, logically fallacious, or irrelevant (which could be included under fallacious). I can’t quite say I don’t believe a word of it, but it is extensively and fatally flawed.
A The Biblical basis of recent creationGenesis 1 and 2, and references to creation throughout the rest of the Bible, clearly state that the entire physical universe was created from nothing in 6 consecutive 24-hour days, not much more than 6000 years ago. The first two verses, the creation of the heavens and Earth, are included in the first day. There are many arguments against placing a long gap between this initial creation and the following six days, some of which will be mentioned later. One is that the account specifically states that the Sun, Moon, and stars were not created until the fourth day. This also means that, without the Sun, the source of day and night in the first three days must have been a God-ordained special light source.The length of the days of creation
The word translated “day” in this account must mean a 24-hour time period. The Hebrew word “yom” also has other meanings referring to a longer time period. There are several hundred other places in the Old Testament where “yom” is used with a number, and in all of them the context clearly indicates that it means a simple solar day, so that must be what it means in Gen. 1 and 2. The account refers repeatedly to “evening and morning,” which should clarify the definition beyond question. Furthermore, in Exodus 20:11 and 31:15 it is referred to in connection with the Ten Commandments, using God’s example of working six days and then resting as the precedent for our work week and day of rest. If it is applied to our literal days, then the example must have been literal days.
The Bible contains no hint of any long ages, and they are therefore incompatible with Scripture and could only come from motivations other than sound Bible interpretation.Literal interpretation, Scriptural perspicuity, and authority
This is simply following the principle of literal interpretation of the text. If all this is not enough to make it clear that God meant literal 24-hour days, what would be enough? Is God not able to say what He means? Can’t we believe what He says? There are other Hebrew words which He could have used, and surely would have, if He meant longer periods. We must believe God means what He says. This is the clear apparent meaning of this passage and many other references to creation, so this must be what God meant us to believe. This is the doctrine of “perspicuity of Scripture,” (Ch. 5, I, F) which states that its message is meant to be plain to common people, not obscure to all but a selected few who are enlightened and/or educated.
Orthodox Christian belief through the last two thousand years has been overwhelmingly on the side of a recent date of creation, with only a few exceptions, which can be attributed to the influence of Greek philosophy. Would God let so many people misunderstand it for so long?
The unanimous opinion of present-day university scholars of ancient Hebrew language and culture is that the Genesis account means literal days, not longer time periods. These scholars are experts on the subject, and are mostly neither Christian nor Jewish, therefore objective in their opinion on interpretation.
The leaders of the Protestant Reformation emphasized the principle of “sola scriptura,” the Bible alone, as the authority for faith. We must not allow this to be overturned by the popular concept of “two books” of revelation, placing the written Word and the created world on equal status, or “natural theology” which claims to find all necessary truth in the created world apart from verbal revelation. There is undeniably both general and special revelation, but general revelation must not be allowed to overrule or replace special revelation, or else the Bible becomes superfluous and meaningless. Science must be considered only after, and subject to, conclusions which are derived from the text of Scripture alone. Scientific facts must be interpreted in light of Biblical revelation.
Scientific theories come and go. There have been other theories of the origin of the universe before the Big Bang, and sooner or later it too will be replaced. Already there are scientific objections to it, and alternative theories proposed. Our faith in the Bible must not be tied to any particular scientific theory, especially not one about origins.
Unobserved long ages are incomprehensible and meaningless. Who can understand billions of years? The primary motivation for this concept in science is the theory of evolution of living things, which would require long time periods, but is clearly ruled out by a recent creation. Therefore recent creation more directly demonstrates God’s power and thus confirms His existence, much more so than a long slow process of formation and development.The concept of long ages is evolutionary and naturalistic, compromising, accommodating
There are many Biblical and theological objections specifically to the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe. It assumes an infinite universe, which conflicts with the concepts of the sovereignty and transcendence of God. Any kind of process is an evolutionary concept, a naturalistic, atheistic model developed and advocated by scientists who reject God and the Bible. They claim that the Big Bang theory denies God’s involvement and power, excluding God from any active role in the process, and allows long ages in which naturalistic biological evolution could produce living things on Earth. A Christian and an atheist can give the same account of the development of the universe and the solar system from a Big Bang; it does not require God. It is an attempt to evade the obvious working of God, which is inescapable in a recent-creation model. Pagan religions from ancient times have taught a long-age evolutionary origin of the universe and living things. In modern times Darwinian evolution is the key basis and source of the horrors of Marxist communism and Nazism, and the evil movements advocating sexual freedom, abortion, pornography, violence, and euthanasia.
All attempts to introduce long time periods into the Biblical account are motivated by an acceptance of the authority of science over Scripture, which leads to interpreting Scripture so as to make it conform to the opinions of the scientific world. No one ever even thought of such an interpretation before scientists began talking about greater ages of the universe. This is a serious error, compromising and accommodating to those who reject God, seeking to win their favor. The attempt has failed totally, being scorned by leading non-Christian scientists. It casts doubts on the Bible’s authority, and this has been a key step in many former Christian believers’ total loss of faith in God’s word, power, and presence. Many who remain Christians are much weakened in their faith and witness. Those who attempt to interpret the Bible in this way also commit other serious errors in principles of interpretation. The most serious and influential example of this is in the materials of Hugh Ross and his organization, Reasons to Believe. He also teaches such errors as death before sin and a local Flood.
Creation evangelism, based on the literal authority of the Bible, has been widely fruitful in restoring many Christians’ faith in God from the damaging influence of evolutionary teaching, and in bringing unbelievers to place their faith in God.
There are many things in the universe which seem to require a process of development spanning much more than, say, 10,000 years. Many of these can in fact be re-interpreted within that time interval (see below). Those that cannot be interpreted in this way must be considered as examples of “created age” or “apparent age.” Creation is by definition instantaneous, and must produce a “fully formed and functioning” entity, whether a universe or a living organism. Thus apparent age is an inherent aspect of divine creation. If the possibility of creation is not accepted, then these created things and their characteristics can only be explained in terms of an assumed process of development, because that is how all subsequent things are produced. But in the case of the first created objects, this process did not actually occur. Examples of this include Adam, who must have been a mature adult at his first conscious moment, and the wine, bread, and fish made by Jesus.Created or apparent age
This appearance of age is not deception, since it is the only possible way to create such things, and God has clearly told us in the Bible what actually happened. Also, it is only the speeding up of the usual processes by which God now produces new things, such as bodies, wine, bread, and fish.
“Creation” is by definition a unique event, unlike the pattern of physical cause and effect with which are now surrounded, and which is the subject of scientific research. Creation must be something from nothing, and could only be instantaneous, not a process. This is described by the terms “fiat,” meaning “decree,” and “ex nihilo,” Latin for “from nothing.” The Hebrew verb “bara” is used in the Bible only in reference to God’s work, never with a human subject of the verb. It does not in itself always mean fiat ex nihilo creation, but that is clearly the meaning of the context in Genesis 1. It is the only way a universe could begin, and living things, including their complex systems. It is the only way Jesus’ conception and resurrection could have occurred, and also changing water to wine (for the wedding Jesus attended in Cana) or multiplying bread and fish (to feed the five thousand and the four thousand), and an individual’s moment of conversion and new spiritual life. This is the pattern of God’s creative work.
To reject this possibility is to deny the creative power of God. All estimates of long past ages are of necessity based on observation of the present and projected into the unobserved past. This requires the uniformitarian assumption: uniformity of rates, processes and laws throughout those long time periods, thus explicitly ruling out any miraculous intervention by God. The Bible says there has been such intervention, invalidating such speculation about the past. Science can only observe the present and repeatable operation of the universe, not its past, especially its unique unrepeatable origin. History is unobserved, so it is not science. God was there at the beginning; we were not. So we must simply accept His eye-witness account of the beginning. He has told us what He did.
In reference to creation, there are many statements throughout the Bible relating it to “the word of the Lord,” or “God said.” This means it was done instantly, not gradually. Ps. 33:6, 9; 148:5; Isa. 48:13; Heb. 11:3; II Pet. 3:5, 6, etc.
In a closely related point of Bible teaching, the Bible directly links the origin of the human race with the origin of the universe, including statements by Jesus Himself referring to human events “since the foundation of the world,” or “from the beginning of creation.” Mt 13:35; 19:14; 24:21; 25:34; Mk. 10:16; 13:19; Lk. 1:70; 11:50; Acts 3:21; Rom. 1:20; Heb. 1:10; 4:3; I Pet. 1:20; Rev. 13:8; 17:8. This is another reason to reject any long ages before Adam, or a gap between Gen. 1:1, 2 and the first day.
The Bible also teaches that the universe will end in an instant. Mt. 24:35; Mk. 13:31; Lk. 21:33; 2 Pet. 3:10-13; Rev. 21:1; etc. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that it began in an instant.
Some Christians try to reconcile the Bible with the long ages of geology by equating the days of Genesis with the ages, the “day-age” viewpoint. This conflicts with the many indications in the text that the days were not long ages.Day-age and gap theories
There have been many versions of the “gap theory,” one of the most widely circulated being that of C. I. Scofield early in the 20th century, in his famous Scofield Bible notes. This theory proposes that Gen. 1:1 refers to an initial creation, which was destroyed when Satan rebelled and was cast out of heaven to Earth. This is how the Earth became “without form and void,” 1:2, and is also the source of the rocks and fossils. The six days were then a re-creation of this damaged world. This theory is no longer so widely held, so need not be criticized in detail here. Its Biblical base is at best dubious and largely speculative.
Another major objection to the concept of long geological ages before Adam is the Bible’s clear teaching that death is the result of Adam’s sin, Rom. 5:12-19; 8:1-23; I Cor. 15:21,22. Also, in Gen. 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31, “God saw that it was good.” Is suffering, decay, and death good? Advocates of evolution have severely criticized the idea that God would have chosen such a long, wasteful, cruel process of trial and error to produce the present world. Such a concept of God is a stumbling-block in the way of trusting Him. Worst of all, if death is not the result of sin, then we do not need a Savior, and Jesus’ death was in vain. Thus this undermines the heart of the gospel. Atheists see this problem clearly, but it seems that many Christians do not.No death, decay, or suffering before Adam
In the original creation animals all ate plants; they were not carnivorous, Gen. 1:29, 30. Meat eating did not begin until after the Flood, Gen. 9:3. The Bible predicts a future “peaceable kingdom” heavenly state in which there will be no death or suffering, not even carnivorous animals, but even lions will be herbivorous, Isa. 11:6-9; 65:25; Ezek. 34:25; Hos. 2:18; etc. Thus this is the future ideal state, and also must have been the original created state.
This does raise some perplexing questions about when, after the initial creation, some animals became carnivorous, able to catch and digest animals instead of plants, and other animals became skilled in evading them. This involves major redesign of their digestive systems and entire bodies. But this is still of course no problem for the omnipotent God.
The primary fact cited as proof of a great age for the Earth, several billion years, is the existence of several miles of complex rock layers and fossils covering the land surface of the entire Earth. These however do not necessarily support that interpretation, in fact they are much better interpreted as the product of one or more catastrophic events, which need not be a long time ago. In fact the Bible account of the global Flood in Noah’s time requires such an interpretation. A global water catastrophe would necessarily reconstruct the surface of the Earth and be the dominant formative factor in its present appearance. To deny this is to deny the clear Biblical Flood account in Genesis, referred to numerous times elsewhere in the Bible. In fact the denial of God’s past judgment in the Flood leads to denial of His coming final judgment, 2 Pet. 3:3-5.The Flood of Noah, Flood geology, Ice Ages, and the vapor canopy
The Flood also explains the evidence of great Ice Ages in the past. There is clear evidence of great glaciers covering much of North America and Europe, and this is usually interpreted as indicating a long series of climatic fluctuations extending over at least many hundreds of thousands of years. This is one of many purported evidences that the age of the Earth is much larger than a few thousand years. Recent-creationist studies indicate that this long story can be telescoped into a single glacial episode during the few centuries immediately following the Flood, with heavy precipitation from the still-warm oceans.
One common suggestion of those who reject the Flood as the source of the rock layers is that the Flood was global but quiescent, leaving no visible trace. This is simply impossible, unimaginable. No observed example can be given in which large quantities of flowing water do not profoundly affect the land they cover. There are many examples of the tremendous power of rapidly flowing water.
Another suggestion is that the Flood was only local, not worldwide. This runs against many statements in the account referring to the “whole earth,” “under heaven,” all people and animals, etc. Also, if it was only regional, Noah would not have needed an Ark, but God could have instructed him and the animals, especially birds, simply to migrate out of the region affected.
Finally, God promised that He would never again destroy the world with a flood. There have been many devastating local floods in history since then, so either that Flood was not local or God has not kept His promise.
Another important concept in connection with the Flood is the pre-Flood vapor canopy. Gen. 1:7 refers to “the waters above the firmament,” and 2:5, 6 says there was no rain in the original world. Gen. 9:12-16 says that there had been no rainbow before the one Noah saw after the Flood. A layer of water vapor in the upper atmosphere would produce the uniform mild climate which existed throughout the Earth before the Flood, shield the Earth from damaging radiation and thus explain long pre-Flood lifetimes, and perhaps provide a significant part of the source of the Flood. This model has been developed in various ways; the most complete work, including computer model calculations, has been done by Jody Dillow in the 1970s, and since then by Larry Vardiman and his graduate students at ICR.
An indirect evidence against the long ages assumed in the standard geological viewpoint is the Bible’s descriptions of “behemoth” and “leviathan,” Job 40:15-41:34; see also 3:8; Ps. 74:14; 104:26; Isa. 27:1. These descriptions fit no known living creature, but describe large dinosaurs, so these must have been living at least until the time of Job, around 2000 BC, not already extinct for tens of millions of years before humans existed as evolutionists tell us. There are also many instances of aboriginal art and reports that closely fit dinosaur characteristics as late as the Middle Ages in Europe; there may still be a few in the deep ocean or jungle. Stories and descriptions of dragons in Europe and China closely resemble dinosaurs.Dinosaurs in Biblical and more recent history
B Scientific evidence for recent creationThis and the following section have some overlap, because evidence for recent creation is automatically evidence against long ages.
There are many evidences which point to an age far less than billions of years, even if not necessarily only a few thousand. While not directly confirming recent creation, they show that the popular model has fatal flaws which are not being acknowledged. The shorter the time period involved, the more reliable such estimates should be, less subject to additional perturbing factors. The scientific community in general gives undue emphasis to evidences which seem to indicate larger ages, and disregards these that indicate shorter ages.
First, there are some problems relating to the universe and its purported age of 15,000,000,000 years.
If the matter we can see in galaxy clusters is all there is, then its gravity is not sufficient to prevent the escape of the galaxies from the cluster; galaxies in clusters are moving so rapidly that they would disperse in far less than billions of years. The astronomy community’s assumption of, and search for, “missing mass” and “dark matter” is only an attempt to cover up this fact, based on the assumption that the clusters must be stable for billions of years, and therefore must contain far more matter than is visible.
Spiral galaxy arms would wind up and become indistinguishable in a few hundred million years, so the galaxies and therefore the universe can’t be that old or older.
Some star clusters are rapidly dispersing, once again unless we assume a lot of “missing mass.”
There are no known supernova remnants older than a few thousand years, even though they should remain visible for over one hundred thousand years.
There are many problems relating to the solar system and its purported age of 4,800,000,000 years:
The Sun is shrinking at such a rate that it could not have existed for billions of years. If it had, then a few billion years ago it would have been as large as the Earth’s orbit, and would have burned up the Earth.
Experiments to observe the flow of neutrinos from the fusion reaction at the center of the Sun have shown that there are only a third to a half of the expected number of neutrinos. Perhaps this indicates that the Sun is not in fact powered by fusion at its center, and its age is much less than the 4.5 billion years usually assumed.
The lifetime of short-period comets is much less than several billion years, so their existence now proves the solar system is not that old. Small objects in the solar system, such as comet nuclei, are careening in a pinball machine, in which they can have only one of two inevitable destinies: either collide with one of the larger bodies, or be deflected into an orbit which will depart from the solar system never to return. The same is true of meteoroids. Rings around planets also cannot last for billions of years, for other reasons. Comets are so conspicuous because of their large tail of evaporated ices escaping from the nucleus; eventually this will all be evaporated, also in much less than billions of years.
Astronomers are aware of these facts, and so they postulate a source of new comets, the Oort Cloud and Kuiper Belt of small icy objects in the outer solar system beyond the planets. These have never been observed, but are merely assumed to exist to solve the problem of the existence of comets.
The small amount of meteor dust on the Moon and the Earth proves it has not been accumulating for several billion years. If it had, there would be a thick layer of dust on the Moon, and the astronauts would have sunk into it. That is why the first moon-lander spacecraft had huge pads on their feet. As the astronauts and earlier moon-lander spacecraft found, the surface of the Moon has less than an inch of fine dust. Also, there should be much more nickel in the crust of the Earth if meteors have been arriving for several billion years.
Moon mountains are slumping and would not retain their present height for billions of years.
The Moon is receding from the Earth about 4 cm/yr. At this rate it would be very near the Earth less than 4.8 billion years ago, so this conflicts with the usual estimate of the age of the solar system, including the Earth and Moon in its present form.
Natural oil and gas deposits are under high pressure, which would leak out far sooner than several hundred million years.
Ocean salts are accumulating at a rate that, compared with the present salt content, indicates an accumulation period much less than 4.5 billion years.
Sediments are accumulating on the ocean floor at a rate that indicates an accumulation time far less than 4.5 billion years.
Some continental mountains are rising at a rate that in 4.5 billion years would produce far larger and higher continents than we observe.
The continents are eroding at a rate that will reduce them to a flat plain in far less than 4.5 billion years.
Pleochroic haloes (explained in Robert Gentry’s book) in some rocks seem to indicate instant creation of those rocks in the solid form, not slow cooling from a molten state.
Finally, there are problems related specifically to the Earth, and therefore related to geology and geophysics.
There are several characteristics of the Earth that indicate an age far less than several billion years.
Carbon-14 in the atmosphere is being produced 30% faster than it is decaying; it is not in an equilibrium state. The half-life of carbon-14 is only about 5000 years, so the present condition is what result if the atmosphere started from no carbon-14 at all about 10,000 years ago. If the Earth and atmosphere have existed with little disturbance for many millions of years, then it should have long since reached precise equilibrium. This indicates it is not that old, or at least that a major disturbance has occurred in the last few thousand years. The Flood and sudden formation of large amounts of sedimentary carbonate rocks would be such a disturbance, removing most of the carbon from the atmosphere.
The geomagnetic field is at present decaying rapidly, reducing by a half every 1500 years, and therefore it could not have existed more than a few thousand years. It is produced by an electric current loop in the conducting iron-nickel core of the earth, and this current is steadily decreasing. The usual “dynamo” theory of generation of this current remains unconfirmed. There is no successful explanation of how the current and field could be produced or reversed. The strips of alternating magnetic polarity on the ocean floor and other locations are commonly interpreted as recording reversals of the magnetic field with time, at intervals of many ten thousand years. These strips are not as simple as they are usually described to be, and Flood geology gives an alternate explanation of their formation.
Helium escapes from the top of the atmosphere far more slowly than it is added from the surface of the Earth. It is produced primarily as alpha particles emitted by the uranium and thorium decay chains within the Earth, and then slowly diffuses to the surface. The present amount in the atmosphere would accumulate in only a few million years, indicating that it has not been accumulating for billions of years. The recent-creationist interpretation is therefore that nearly all the helium now in the atmosphere was created.
As for the Earth’s surface and geological structure, Flood geology is a far better explanation of many characteristics of the rock layers and fossils than the standard geological theory of long ages of slow formation. There are several Flood models currently under discussion. In addition to the well-known hydrological model, there has been an alternative model developed in the mid-90s. This model is based on Dr. John Baumgardner’s research on the interior structure of the Earth, as a staff scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. That laboratory’s computer model shows the possibility of a runaway catastrophic subduction of the surface plates of the Earth, compressing the standard several-hundred-million-year scenario of continental drift into a brief upheaval which can be equated with the Biblical Flood year.
Some rock layers and landforms clearly indicate rapid catastrophic formation in volcanic activity and high-speed water-flow environments. Some are strangely folded and interlaced indicating deformation while they were all still fresh and soft, not long ages after some had formed and hardened. In fact the very existence of fossils is evidence of sudden burial, because an animal body will quickly decay if left in the open. This is what a catastrophic global Flood would produce: lots of mud and dead animals.
Geologists are gradually realizing some of these facts, and reinterpreting formations which were formally assumed to have formed slowly. In addition to recent-creationist geologists’ prodding, another influence has been the astronomical community’s insistent reminder that the Earth is subject to catastrophic impacts, and is not simply leading a safe uninterrupted existence free from outside interference.
Rock layers extend over wide areas. Two layers may be separated by an erosional surface in one location, but in another location these two layers are continuously connected by one or more intervening layers with no sign of an interruption. Thus the layers, most of which appear to have been formed rapidly, may be linked together into one great catastrophic event.
Geologists talk about three main types of boundaries between layers. These are called conformities, unconformities, and paraconformities. The latter refers to instances, which are quite common and widespread, where different layers appear to rest continuously one above another, with no evidence of a long time interruption, but according to dating by the fossils contained in them geologists assert that a long time interval occurred at that point. Such long times would surely leave some traces of erosion of the surface of the older layer. Surely a more reasonable conclusion is to disregard the dating based on fossils, thus greatly shortening the geological time scale.
A particularly significant type of paraconformity is where the fossils in the rocks above the boundary are considered to be older than those below, an inverted sequence. Geologists account for this as an “overthrust” in which horizontal movement has pushed one layer up on top of another. In some very small-scale cases this can be verified by further field study, but it is incredible in cases where the upper layers are many hundreds of feet thick, the distance supposedly traveled is a hundred miles or more, and the boundary surface is smooth and clean with nosigns of cracking and grinding during all this assumed motion. These cases should be interpreted as evidence against the standard dating and sequence of the fossils.
A scientific problem with the day-age theory is that the order of the fossils in the rock layers, as summarized in the “standard geological column,” does not agree with the order in the Genesis account. For example, in the fossils ocean plants and animals are considered oldest, but in Genesis land plants are created first. This is, however, a complex issue. John Woodmorappe has done an extensive study in which he throws doubt on whether there is in fact a consistent worldwide pattern in the order of the fossils. The “geological column” is a conceptual construction, only a part of which is observed at any one location. He spent months gathering the original data and drawing his own maps of them, and found that there are many uncertainties in the sequence. The standard geological column is not well supported by the facts, but is a theoretical concept heavily influenced by evolutionary assumptions.
Fossils of tropical plants are found throughout the world, including near both poles, indicating that there once was a worldwide mild climate. This confirms the canopy theory, which would produce such a climate.
There are many processes that are commonly assumed, according to uniformitarianism, to proceed slowly, and therefore would require long periods of time to produce many existing formations on the Earth. But these processes can in fact proceed at much faster rates than is usually assumed.
The world’s present-day ice-caps, on Greenland and Antarctica, supposedly are proof that they have been accumulating for at least a digit or two more than 10,000 years. However, identifiable annual layers exist only down to about 100 m, beyond which the snow is compressed and recrystallized into solid ice with the annual layers obliterated. Age estimates are therefore based on the assumption of uniform accumulation rates, not on the actual existence of that many identifiable layers. But precipitation rates would be very heavy for a few centuries after the Flood, as mentioned in sec. A, therefore the ice-caps do not constitute proof of a time period far longer than 10,000 years.
Research in the area around Mt. St. Helens since its 1980 explosive eruption shows many phenomena formed at that time and since that are usually assumed to require long times for formation: thick series of cyclic sedimentary layers, rapid erosion of canyons through those layers, etc. Thus these formations elsewhere do not necessarily prove long ages were required to produce them.
Observations of lake bottoms, both natural and artificial, has found that layers can be deposited several times a year, not only annually. This may be due to heavy rainfalls, or turbidity currents. This means that many layers that are interpreted as representing annual cycles may not actually represent that long a time span.
Research has demonstrated that a coal layer is not, as usually assumed, the result of the burial of a mature forest or peat bog. By this interpretation, long series of coal layers interspersed with other layers must represent at least many thousand years of development and burial of successive mature forests. A coal layer is better explained as material dropped on the bottom of a lake from a floating mat of plant material, during a time period that is on the order of a year or two at most, perhaps only days or hours. Successive layers were deposited when mud and the plant material flowed back and forth in the lake, driven by whatever catastrophic circumstances produced the mat in the first place. Divers have found that this is exactly what is happening in a lake near Mt. St. Helens.
It is common to find polystrate fossils, which extend through several layers. This is especially true in coal layers; there are many instances of trees, and even animals, found extending through multiple layers. This is impossible to explain in terms of many centuries of successive forests, and could only occur if the entire sequence was deposited very quickly.
Similarly, recent creationists have studied the series of layers of buried petrified trees in Yellowstone Park. These were long interpreted as a series of forests buried by volcanic ash eruptions, each layer representing at least several centuries, but detailed analysis shows that the stumps do not have complete root systems, and many do not have bark. This too is better explained as falling on a lake floor from a floating mat, as observed at Mt. St. Helens.
Observations in many locations have demonstrated that stalactites and stalagmites form far more rapidly than is usually assumed, within a few decades or centuries. Thus they are not evidence for several more digits of age for the Earth.
Almost any issue of any creationist publication contains examples of rapid rates of various processes: coalification and petrification of wood in a few decades or less, growth of stalactites and stalagmites in and under man-made structures and therefore of known age, mineral deposits formed inside pipes in just a few years, the tremendous erosive power of high-speed flowing water, claims of human artifacts found in coal layers, etc. These reports are of course spiced with disparaging comments about the entire geological and scientific community which is blind to these facts and in fact is engaged in a sinister conspiracy to suppress them.
Finally, there are a few other considerations also relevant to the age of the Earth and its rocks.
Human and dinosaur footprints have been found together in several places. This is totally inconsistent with the standard evolutionary timetable of the existence of dinosaurs and humans on the Earth.
There are flood legends in many cultures around the world, confirming the reality of the Flood.
There have been many reports of sightings of the Ark on Mt. Ararat in Turkey, though it has not yet been directly confirmed.
The rate of human population growth rules out a multi-million-year age for the human race.
C Recent-creationists’ scientific objections to long ages and the Big BangThere are several objections in principle to the scientific basis for long ages and a Big Bang beginning of the known universe.
Scientific theories are constantly changing, and the history of science is a history of the overthrow of theories once considered established facts. Such theories are not trustworthy as guides to truth deserving to be placed on a par with the Bible, or used as a guide in interpreting the Bible. Also, we must not tie our faith so closely to any one theory that when the theory falls it seems to make our faith fall with it.
Specifically about the origin of the universe, there have been many theories, of which the Big Bang is only the latest, and it is already being criticized on many points. Who knows when its flaws will finally bring its rejection, to be replaced by yet another theory? Estimates of the age of the Earth and the universe have increased many times in the last two centuries. All these are closed-minded attempts to reject the truth of divine creation, and the scientific evidences which support it.
The scientific community as a whole rejects any research which supports recent creation. They will not fund it or publish it, no matter how competent. But all the major revolutions in science have begun with a small minority who were considered crackpot in their time. Time will tell.
A frequent basic question about recent creation is how it can account for the fact that we see light reaching us from distant galaxies up to several billion light years away, meaning that the light has traveled that long to reach us. This is the “light travel time” problem, with no definite solution yet, but there are several possible answers. Astronomical distance estimates are uncertain, therefore the light travel time is uncertain within a certain range. The greatest distances are estimated mainly on the basis of the red shift in the spectrum of the light we receive, but there are questions about whether the red shift of distant galaxies indicates distance correctly. Halton Arp and a few other astronomers have observed that some large-red-shift quasars seem to be closely associated with galaxies having a much smaller red shift.
Some recent creationists have suggested that the speed of light may be decreasing, and was extremely fast at creation and for a while after that, so light from distant galaxies could have reached the Earth soon after creation a few thousand years ago. This theory is based on the fact that there is a slight downward trend in the measured speed of light over the past three hundred years, though there is disagreement among creationists over the significance of these measurements. Finally, be that as it may, God could of course have simply created the light waves already traveling all along the path to Earth, so that the light we are now receiving did not actually come from the object itself. This then becomes one aspect of “created age.”
As for other characteristics of the universe which seem to indicate a long age, it is possible that the universe actually does have a far greater age than the Earth. Russell Humphreys, a recent creationist, is now unsatisfied with the concept of apparent age, though in earlier years he propagated it. He has developed a model based on general relativity, in which the Earth is initially briefly at the center of a white hole. He proposes that God rapidly changed the cosmological constant in Einstein’s equations during the first day (on Earth) of creation, thus producing a repulsion that overpowered gravitational attraction and producing a white hole from which the present universe emerged, leaving the Earth at the original center. This could allow for time to pass much more slowly at the surface of the Earth than in the distant universe, and so the universe could genuinely be billions of years old while the Earth is only a few thousand years old. The Genesis account describes the creation process as seen on the Earth. Humphreys’ model is still under evaluation and development.
Regarding the geological evidence of a great age of the Earth, a crucial link in that interpretation is the assumption of uniformitarianism: that “the present is the key to the past.” This has been asserted in various forms. The weaker form is the assumption that only the presently known laws of physics have been in operation throughout the history of the world, though the rates and types of processes may have sometimes been different from the present. The stronger form asserts that not only the laws but also the rates of processes have always been similar to what is observed at present. This has been a fundamental principle in the growth of modern geology, but it explicitly rules out the events recorded in the Bible, and the possibility of God’s intervention in the world. Christians must reject such an assumption in any form.
There are also many scientific objections to the Big Bang theory and a multi-billion year process leading to the presently observed universe:
There is no explanation for the origin of the Big Bang. What is it that exploded? Why? Some proponents of the Big Bang refer to a primordial “cosmic egg” which exploded, but all such ideas have no scientific basis and are just attempts to evade the fact of creation.
Something from nothing violates both the 1st and 2nd Laws of thermodynamics.
The Big Bang model predicts no matter, only radiation. It should begin with exactly equal amounts of matter and anti-matter, which would all mutually annihilate.
The Big Bang explosion would be too uniform to produce the complexity of the observed universe, which violates the 2nd Law of thermodynamics, and is impossible.
The Big Bang explosion would be too chaotic to produce the order of the observed universe, which violates the 2nd Law of thermodynamics.
Expansion from a small Big Bang to the large present universe is an increase in complexity, so it violates the 2nd Law, and therefore could not have occurred.
Contraction of a gas cloud to form a star is an increase in order, so it too violates the 2nd Law.
Some star clusters contain stars with apparently different ages.
Stars cannot form or change, and no one has ever seen a star form or change. Stellar evolution is just another evolutionary assumption.
Sirius is a white star now but was described as red in ancient Roman times, which is faster than the theory of stellar evolution says such a change can occur.
“Sakurai’s Object” has been observed in the late 90s to be changing more rapidly than theory allows, and in the wrong direction, from a dwarf into a giant star.
Measurements including those by the Hubble Space Telescope give an estimate of the age of the universe based on its expansion, and this result is less than the age of the universe based on the assumed ages of globular star clusters. This is clearly impossible, and shows the whole model is fatally flawed.
The Big Bang cannot create life.
A gas and dust cloud could not form planets.
The origin of the Moon is not adequately explained by any theory yet proposed: co-formation, capture, division, or collision with an approximately Mars-sized object, which is the currently popular theory. A collision would have to be just exactly right, which is highly improbable.
The solar system is too chaotic to be the result of a natural process of formation from a gas cloud.
The solar system is too orderly to be the result of a natural process of formation from a gas cloud.
The angular momentum distribution of the solar system cannot be explained by formation from a contracting gas cloud, because the mass is mostly in the Sun but the angular momentum is mostly in the planets.
Radioisotope dating methods are based on unjustified assumptions, and the results are often inconsistent. Those assumptions involve the initial composition, changes in the composition during time due to external influences, and the rate of the decay process. All of these are unknown or variable. Radioactive decay processes may vary in speed due to temperature, pressure, radiation, etc.
The lack of interstellar comets from outside the solar system shows that either there are not many other solar systems or there has not been time (millions of years) for comets ejected by them to reach us.
The presentation of the recent-creationist position and the arguments commonly used to support it could of course go on forever, but this covers all the important points of which I am aware in the current literature and presentations. It should be sufficient for a meaningful evaluation of the validity or otherwise of the basis of recent creation.
Unfortunately, I believe that the conclusion of such an evaluation is not validity but otherwise. As I stated at the beginning of this summary, I stop only slightly short of saying I don’t believe a word of all these purported evidences and arguments in support of recent creation. It has many flaws, several of them fatal.
The primary source of material advocating recent creation is the Institute for Creation Research, P. O. Box 2667, El Cajon, California 92021. ICR’s web-site is www.icr.org.
Master Books is closely related to ICR, and publishes only recent-creation material.
Another source is the Creation Research Society, P. O. Box 8263, St. Joseph, Missouri 64508-8263. email is email@example.com, web-site is www.creationresearch.org
Books advocating recent creation and Flood geology include:
The Genesis Flood, John C. Whitcomb, Henry M. Morris. Phillipsburg, N. J.: Presbyterian and Reformed. 1961. ISBN 0-8010-9501-8
The Moon - Its Creation, Form, and Significance, John C. Whitcomb, Donald B. DeYoung. Winona Lake, Indiana: BMH Books. 1979
Age of the Cosmos, Harold S. Slusher. El Cajon: ICR. 1980. ISBN 0-932766-03-X
The Waters Above. Earth's Pre-Flood Vapor Canopy, Joseph C. Dillow. Chicago: Moody. 1981. ISBN 0-8024-9198-7
The Collapse of Evolution, Scott M. Huse. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 1983. 0-8010-4310-7
A History of Modern Creationism, Henry M.
Morris. San Diego: Master Books. 1984
Scientific Creationism, Henry M. Morris. El Cajon, California: Master Books. 2nd ed. 1985
Creation's Tiny Mystery, Robert V. Gentry. Earth Science Associates, Box 12067, Knoxville, Tennessee 37912-0067. 1986. ISBN 0-9616753-1-4. This is the book describing pleochroic haloes.
What Is Creation Science?, Henry M. Morris, Gary E. Parker. El Cajon: Master Books. 2nd ed. 1987. ISBN 0-89051-081-4
Astronomy and the Bible, Questions and Answers, Donald B. Deyoung. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House. 1988. ISBN 0-8010-2991-0
In the Beginning, Walter T. Brown. Center for Scientific Creation, 5612 N. 20th Place, Phoenix, Arizona 85016. 5th ed., 1989. Newer editions have come out since my copy.
Science, Scripture, and the Young Earth, An Answer to Current Attacks on the Biblical Doctrines of Recent Creation and the Global Flood, Henry M. Morris, John D. Morris. El Cajon: Institute for Creation Research. 1989
The Answers Book, Answers to the 12 most-asked questions on Genesis and creation/evolution, Ken Ham, Andrew Snelling, Carl Wieland. El Cajon: Master Books. 1990. ISBN 0-949906-15-8. While committed to recent creation, the book is quite cautious, and admits there are not clear answers in some cases.
The Illustrated Origins Answer Book, Concise, Easy-to-Understand Facts about the Origin of Life, Man, and Cosmos, Paul S. Taylor. Mesa, Arizona: Eden Productions. 3rd ed., 1991. ISBN 1-877775-01-0
Bones of Contention, A Creationist Assessment of Human Fossils, Marvin L. Lubenow. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books. 1992. ISBN 0-8010-5677-2
Biblical Creationism: What Each Book of the Bible Teaches about Creation and the Flood, Henry M. Morris. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books. 1993. ISBN 0-8010-6298-5
Studies in Flood Geology, A Compilation of Research Studies Supporting Creation and the Flood, John Woodmorappe. El Cajon: ICR. 1993
The Young Earth, John D. Morris. El Cajon: Master Books. 1994
Creation Scientists Answer Their Critics, Duane T. Gish. El Cajon: ICR. ISBN 0-932766-28-5
Grand Canyon, Monument to Catastrophe, Steven A. Austin ed. Santee, California: ICR. 1994
Starlight and Time, Solving the Puzzle of Distant Starlight in a Young Universe, D. Russell Humphreys. Colorado Springs: Master Books. 1994. ISBN 0-89051-202-7
Creation and Time, A Report on the Progressive Creationist Book by Hugh Ross, Mark Van Bebber and Paul S. Taylor. Mesa, Arizona: Eden Productions. 1994 ISBN 1-877775-02-9
Astronomy and Creation, An Introduction, Donald B. DeYoung. Ashland, Ohio: Creation Research Society Books. 1995. ISBN 0-940384-17-5
Dinosaurs and Creation, Questions and Answers, Donald B. DeYoung. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 2000. ISBN 0-8010-6306-X
In addition to books, there is a six-film series on Origins, produced by Films for Christ, Mesa, Arizona. The series is closely parallel to, but not as detailed as, The Illustrated Origins Answer Book. Films 1 and 2 are specifically on recent creation.
Finally, recent-creationists produce a number of periodicals.
ICR publishes a monthly news pamphlet, Acts & Facts, with which is included Back to Genesis and Impact.II An analysis of the basis for recent creation
The Creation Research Society publishes the Creation Research Society Quarterly, and Creation Matters.
From Australia comes Creation Ex Nihilo, and the Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal.
The above presentation of Biblical, theological, logical, and scientific arguments is truly awesome and overwhelming on first acquaintance, unless you have a specialist background in certain fields. Modern society is increasingly anti-Christian and degenerate, and we Christians are rightly concerned about how to deal with it for ourselves, as well as for our children. Recent creationism sounds like what we want to hear, defending the faith and defeating the enemies at their own game. It presents the valid arguments for intelligent design in the origin of living things; shouldn’t that and recent creation of the universe be a package deal? If they are right about the origin of living things, they must be right about the origin of the universe. Amen, preach it brother!
So why do I disagree with virtually the entire recent-creation presentation above? Shouldn’t I support these brothers in the Lord who are laboring to defend and spread the gospel? I disagree with it because I believe it is wrong, however sincere and well-intentioned its advocates may be. And I am supporting them, by attempting to help them improve what I see as weaknesses that are counterproductive to their (and my) goal of supporting and strengthening faith in the Bible. Removing these flaws would strengthen their case. If this isn’t supporting them, what would be?
The advocates of recent creation make themselves and their position highly visible, and extensively criticize all who disagree with them, whether Christian or non-Christian. Yet they express surprise and offense when criticized, especially by Christians. If they don’t want to attract lightning, they should get down off the rooftop. And by writing this chapter, I will no doubt attract some lightning! We shall see.
Though none of them would say so, or even really think so, in practice many recent-creationists have a policy of employing anything that is anti-anti-creationist. If it comes to the “correct” conclusion, it must be right, and we should all support it. There are some who do not agree with this policy, but they seem to have little influence on the mass-marketed presentations.
Let us consider the points of the recent-creationist presentation in detail. First, we discuss the Biblical basis, which is summarized in sec. I, A.
A Evaluation of the Biblical basis of recent creationClaims of “literal interpretation” are often stated in connection with particular views on creation. There are at least eight viewpoints (and it could be further subdivided) whose advocates all claim to be literal interpretation of the Biblical creation account. They all consider their interpretation to be the simple, obvious, actual, and therefore literal, meaning of the text, as intended by God and the inspired author. This list is ordered from most conservative to most flexible, but by definition it does not include the liberal opinion that the Bible is a man-made, fallible collection of myths and legends. That is beyond the subject of this discussion.Literal interpretation
In this viewpoint, Gen. 1:1,2 is almost always included in the first day, though verse 1 could be an introductory comment and 2 could be before the first day. This is of course the recent-creation position.1 Six consecutive 24-hour days, about 6000 years ago
This covers the various gap theories, placing the beginning of the universe an indefinitely long time in the past, with the formation of the surface of the Earth and creation of life occurring recently.2 A long time interval after 1:1 and/or 2, then six 24-hour days recently
The viewpoint usually referred to by this name is the one popularized in C. I Scofield’s Study Bible in the early 20th century. This placed the geological ages in the gap, after which Satan rebelled, fell from heaven to earth, and destroyed the initial creation, which was then recreated and repopulated in six 24-hour days. This view is no longer popular, for various reasons, mostly connected with the conjectured effects of Satan’s fall.
But a time gap need not be connected with Satan’s fall. A fascinating variation is proposed by John Sailhamer, in his book Genesis Unbound. Dr. Sailhamer has impeccable credentials as a conservative Old Testament scholar, teaching at Northwestern College and Western Seminary, and has taught at Bethel Seminary, Philadelphia College of Bible, and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He says he wrote the book to make the point that recent creation is not the only game in the Bible-believing town, and in fact it has some serious faults that bring unnecessary embarrassment to the cause of literal interpretation. His viewpoint, briefly, is that the universe, and the Earth, and all life on it, were created in Gen. 1:1, 2, during an indefinite time period. He rejects the Big Bang, but his reasons are the same as those of recent-creationists and are obviously influenced by their opinions (see II, C). He criticizes both Henry Morris and Hugh Ross (currently the best-known advocates of young- and old-Earth creation respectively)! The term translated “earth” in Gen. 1, Hebrew “erets,” can also refer to smaller areas than the entire planet; this is discussed later in connection with the Flood account.
Dr. Sailhamer believes the six days are not referring to creation of the entire world and life in it, but instead to the preparation of the land, to be the Garden of Eden for Adam and Eve, and later the Promised Land of Canaan. That particular parcel of land was initially a desolate waste, but was transformed as the plants and animals were brought into it from elsewhere. At first hearing, this seems inconsistent with the account as we are accustomed to understanding it, but he has done his homework and the book carefully discusses each verse. Read the book if you want all the details. Furthermore, Dr. Sailhamer claims this is no novel interpretation he invented himself, but is the viewpoint taken by the earliest pre-New Testament rabbis, right back to intimations in the prophetic writings themselves. Therefore he claims that the concept of this being an account of the creation of the whole planet only arose later under the influence of Greek philosophy.
I do not accept Dr. Sailhamer’s entire position. But it does demonstrate that there are competent alternative viewpoints, and objections to recent creation that are not based on skeptical assumptions. In later sections we will discuss some of the details of the creation account, including more of Dr. Sailhamer’s comments. For now, it shows that the recent-creation interpretation is not necessarily obvious, simple, or even traditional!
Recent-creationists have so far only responded briefly to Dr. Sailhamer, as far as I am aware. In book reviews they belittle his views as just one man’s unfounded speculation. What else can they do?
These two are virtually equivalent, usually called “progressive creation,” or, to specifically distinguish it from recent creation, “long-age creation.” This is the politest way in which recent-creationists refer to this viewpoint. They have recently (Dr. John Morris, 1999) invented the less complimentary term “long-age semi-creationists” for those who hold this view.3 Non-consecutive 24-hour days, separated by long ages
4 Each day is an age; the “day-age” view
In this view the “beginning” when “God created the heavens and the earth” extends from the Big Bang about 15,000,000,000 years ago, to the formation of the solar system about 4,800,000,000 years ago. At that time the newly-formed Earth was “without form and void,” a sterile desolate planet but uniquely, providentially suited for the survival of life (ch. 6, II, A, 2). The six days are correlated with the geological ages, during which various categories of life were formed by direct acts of God. This is the position I have suggested (see ch. 6, II, B, 9).
There is a range of opinions among progressive creationists about Adam and Eve. Some do not consider them to be actual historical individuals, and this is used as an objection by recent-creationists against progressive creation. But many others, myself included, see no reason to deny the existence of Adam and Eve as historical individuals, as described many places in the Bible. They experienced a literal, historical temptation and Fall into sin, and were our ancestors. Those progressive creationists who deny this do so for other reasons; it is not inherent in progressive creation.
These two can fairly conveniently account for differences in sequence between Genesis and standard geology.5 Overlapping ages
6 Flexible sequence
7 Parable or allegory
The Genesis account is not meant to be actual history or science; it is topical, non-chronological, theological, an anti-idolatry polemic. It obviously has a parallel structure, with the first three days forming different realms, the next three days filling the same respective realms.
These two solve virtually all the problems of harmonizing the Bible and science, by making the two unrelated and therefore not in need of harmonizing. I feel they underestimate the overlap between the Bible and nature, but they have some good points, and help counterbalance an overestimate of the overlap. The fact that the account has a logical structure is not incompatible with its also containing historical information. God would be expected to work in a logical way.8 Days of revelation
God revealed the creation account to Moses in seven days.
This covers most of the products in the marketplace of literal interpretation of the creation account. I personally favor options 3 or 4. Now we need to discuss this interpretation in more detail.
The 24-hour interpretation is claimed to be the simple, obvious one, but it is not that simple when the details of the account are considered. In other words, it does not fit the context. This fact is betrayed by the many complex explanations that are required to try to make it simple!The length of the days of creation
In Gen. 1:11, 12, the third day, God said “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants….” In 22, the fifth day, He commands the sea animals and birds to multiply and fill their respective realms. In 24 and 25, the sixth day, He commands the land to produce creatures; there is not the explicit command to fill it, but this could be assumed by comparison with the previous day. In 2:8, 9 God planted a garden and caused it to grow. All of these do not sound like they were completed in a single day, so that is not a perspicuous, literal interpretation. It is difficult to imagine Moses thinking of them as occurring in a single day. And even if he did, what Moses thought on this particular point (as distinguished from what he taught) was not necessarily correct (see the discussion of language in ch. 5, I, F). This is of course a two-edged sword; if we could prove (we can’t) Moses was thinking long ages, that by itself does not prove that is correct either.
If we view Gen. 1 as a record of consecutive 24-hour days, then we must assume that the plants and animals were created in abundance throughout the whole world, instantly constituting a fully formed and functioning ecological system. But is that what it says? I don’t see that in my Bible. It is between the lines, if it is there at all; it is not the clear, perspicuous, literal meaning of these verses. It does not say “Abracadabra, poof! Let there instantly be a fully formed and functioning global ecosystem.” If God created multitudes of animals and birds already dispersed throughout the ocean, air, and land, He would not have needed to command them to multiply and fill those realms. That is almost identical to the command given to Adam and Eve in 1:28. God began the human race with a single pair, not instantly fully formed and functioning throughout the entire globe, so why claim that that is what He did with animals?
This reveals an unconscious contradiction in most recent-creationists’ thinking: they usually talk about a single original pair of each “kind,” yet also talk about a world that was instantly “fully formed and functioning.” If, as recent-creationists usually assume, He initially created only one pair of each “kind” (we won’t get side-tracked into defining that word!), then filling their respective ecological niches was not a matter of a single day, but a considerable number of years. The only question is how many digits there are in that number; at least more than one or two.
There is another factor that compounds this problem. Recent-creationists mostly consider the created “kinds” to be equivalent to a higher category than species, so that one original pair’s descendants not only spread geographically but diversified considerably into numerous present-day species. This would require still far more time, at least one or two more digits in addition to the ones already required in the previous paragraph. So we are up to at least four-digit numbers of years in one particular “day.”
One alternative view is the possibility that God instantly created sufficient creatures to make the Garden functional, and the command to fill the rest of the Earth was to be accomplished later. But this is barely possible even in a few hundred years, say from Adam to Noah, which according to the genealogies was at least 1600 years. Also, plants would spread slower than animals, which would spread slower than people. Thus for the rest of the world to be fit for people and animals to spread into from the Garden, the plants would need far more than a two-day head start. Be that as it may, it does not solve other problems.
In 2:19-23, all in the sixth day of ch. 1, we usually assume that Adam began with a pristine mind, a blank slate with no previous experience whatever. More about this assumption in a minute. Given this assumption, we must say he then learned a language for God to use to instruct him. In obedience to God’s instruction, he observed and named all the beasts of the field and birds of the air, noticed they all had mates, found no helper suitable for himself, slept, God took a rib and made a woman, and he then recognized her as his helper. Adam presumably gave the animals meaningful names, not just off-the-cuff nonsense labels. This required both language and observation. It takes time both for Adam to locate the creatures and for them to perform their various life functions. How fast could all the aspects of mating and reproduction become apparent? Was all this, and more, accomplished in the daylight hours of the same day in which Adam began his existence? Imagining such accomplishments in a single day becomes more incredible the more you think about it, no matter how intelligent Adam may have been and how much tutoring and lab assistance God gave him. It is of course not impossible for an almighty God, but the difficulty of accounting for it belies the claim that this is the simple, obvious, literal interpretation.The events of the sixth day
In 2:23, Adam says of Eve that “This is now bone of my bone…” The word translated “now” implies he had waited a long time; it is the same word used in 13:23; 29:34, 35; 30:20; 46:30, etc. Of course if you were created just this morning, a few hours would seem like a long time…
Notice particularly the necessity of language in this story. Adam, and Eve with an even later start, had a language. Could this have been instantly programmed into their brains? Meaning can only be based on experience; were they programmed with experience that had never really occurred? This means their minds were not initially a blank slate. This is taking “apparent age” (discussed below) to an amazing degree, which I have never seen a recent-creationist explicitly advocate. God expected them to understand His instructions that they be fruitful and multiply, and to know that plants yield fruit and seed. And He also expected them to know what death means; that is discussed below too.
This question grows more fascinating the further it is pursued. Exactly what capabilities were given to Adam at the moment of his creation, and how much care and teaching did God give him thereafter? Was his brain instantly able to decipher signals from his eyes? Was he able to sit, stand, walk, feed himself? What food did he find, and how? We are accustomed to picturing him as instantly mature and competent, but where does the text say this? If it is there, it is between the lines. Is God not capable of the care and feeding of Adam beginning from some pretty rudimentary beginnings? It will be fascinating to get to heaven and watch God’s home videos of the Garden of Eden.
Adding Eve and her learning process to the picture raises other questions. If, as the common interpretation tells us, Adam and Eve were fully formed and functioning mature adults from the moment of their creation, and she did not conceive before the Fall, then there cannot have been more than a very few days or even hours between those two events. Either that or they must have been created in a pre-puberty state. It is fascinating to speculate on the nature of a child who was conceived before the Fall. Would the child have inherited their sin nature, if they acquired it in the Fall after conception? So this could be construed as an argument either against any long time period before the Fall, or against their being mature at the moment of creation. But this is getting off the subject.
It is significant to note that all these questions are based on literal interpretation. The recent-creation scenario seems to require a lot of effort in getting around the plain meaning of the text, which is that some things happened that took some time. The literal-interpretation shoe is suddenly on the other foot from the one on whichrecent-creationists are accustomed to wearing it. In this case it is they who seem to be defending a particular interpretation of a word in conflict with the apparent clear meaning of the context. And if they invoke any purported scientific evidence in support of that (young-earth) interpretation, then they can be accused of “exalting science over scripture,” an epithet they are fond of applying to those who advocate positions different than their own.
On the basis of all these statements and details in the creation account, I firmly dispute recent-creationists’ claim to sole possession of the title “literal interpretation” for their viewpoint. In fact I personally strongly question their right to possession of it at all. But we have finished the description of the text, and are now comparing personal judgments, so the discussion is finished.
Some long-age advocates have stated that they feel the apparent meaning of the Genesis account is recent creation, and they base their long-age position solely on scientific considerations. I feel they concede too much. Recent-creationists place great emphasis on quoting such statements as discrediting the long-age position and the motives of its advocates. They stereotype all long-age advocates as rejecting literal interpretation. This is false.
But what about the word studies of the use of the Hebrew word “yom” elsewhere in the Old Testament? Does it always mean 24 hours when used with a number? There are a few arguable counter-examples, including Isa. 9:14; Hos. 6:2; Ps. 30:5. But this may be grasping at straws, and is not crucial.
The really significant point is that, as recent-creationists are fond of emphasizing, the creation account is a unique context; they fail to consider that this therefore might be an exception to its usage elsewhere in the rest of the Old Testament. There is also the additional factor of possible changes in the language over subsequent centuries between the writing of Genesis and the rest of the Old Testament. The word-study argument must always be stated in terms of “all other instances,” which in principle cannot be an airtight proof about this particular instance. I am willing to accept their assertion that in all other occurrences of yom plus a number the context clearly indicates a 24-hour day. But the context of the creation account points strongly to a different meaning, and the fact we are discussing this at all is an acknowledgment that this context does not make the meaning clear here. When recent-creationists invert the procedure and interpret the entire text of Gen. 1 and 2 in terms of a particular word, yom, they are being inconsistent.
Some authors point out that the grammatical phrase structure in Genesis 1, combining the word day with a number, is unusual, not the same as that used elsewhere for “the __th day.” But this is a technicality beyond my ability to evaluate. Perhaps some readers are qualified to pursue it, but I must set it aside.
As for the contention that if God meant long time periods then He would have used another word, I again concede incompetence in Hebrew. I have read comments by others, claiming that the proposed alternative word would not fit this case either. This point too must be set aside for now.
The creation account is given as the precedent on which the Sabbath command is based, in Exodus 20:11 and again in 31:17. Our Sabbath is a literal seventh day. I see two reasons that weaken the basis for insistence on a strict parallelism in time.The basis of the Sabbath command
First, the account of God working and resting is clearly an anthropomorphism, describing Him in terms of our experience, which does not apply to Him. He is often described in terms of arms, eyes, even feathers, which cannot be literally real. He neither gets tired nor rests, nor does He live within the confines of our time-bound existence. The Biblical reference to God resting from creation, Gen. 2:2, 3, can simply mean He finished and stopped, and this is precisely how it is explained in Heb. 4:3. As further evidence of this anthropomorphism, consider what “evening and morning” could possibly mean to God. The Creator of the universe is little affected by the rotations of this little planet; why should His activity be regulated by it? There was no one on Earth to witness day and night until animals on the fifth day and Adam and Eve on the sixth day. So His creation week cannot possibly be closely, or literally, comparable to our work week. This does not mean the parallel is meaningless, only that it is not precisely, literally equivalent.
Second, there are other commands in Ex. 23:10, 11 and Lev. 25:1-17 about 7 years and 50 years, 7 times 7 plus one. These are not explicitly related to the precedent of creation, but the use of the number 7 is at least suggestive. The Old Testament is full of symbols and types, so it is a matter of judgment what to take strictly literally. We Bible-believing Christians all agree that there is much in the Bible that is figurative, typical, and symbolical, and we also agree that sometimes there is some uncertainty in where to draw the line between this and the literal. There is a range for differences of opinion on where to draw that line. I do not hope to easily change others’ long-established opinion which has centuries of precedent. But neither do I accept it as infallible. I will say more about the “traditional” interpretation later.
Recent-creationists insist that the word “day” is defined in its first occurrence in 1:5, by its association with evening and morning. That may be its meaning there; but a word does not have to have the same meaning every time it is used, not even in the same passage. In this very passage, Gen. 2:4 refers to the day that the Lord God made earth and heaven, which must refer at least to six days. In John 1:10, the word “world” occurs three times in one verse, with apparently three different meanings. “Have” obviously has a double meaning in Mt. 13:12; 25:29. And the footnotes in many places tell us that there is a play on words in the original that is not apparent in the English translation. Once again, language is not reducible to a mathematical code.Evening and morning
Evening and morning may themselves have a symbolic, not necessarily literal, meaning. Psalm 90:5, 6 refers to grass sprouting in the morning and withering in the evening, which could hardly literally occur in the same day. This same Psalm, verse 4, states that “a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.” God was the only witness of the first five days of Genesis 1, and most of the sixth. It is interesting to note that this is the only Psalm which is labeled as written by Moses, the author of Genesis.
Another argument recent-creationists use against equating Gen. 1:1 with the Big Bang and subsequent billions of years is that the Bible says the sun, moon, and stars were not created until the fourth day. Here Dr. Sailhamer enters with the assertion that the text says no such thing. What it actually says is that on the fourth day God did nothing, but only proclaimed the purpose for which the heavenly bodies had been created, thus stating explicitly that they were not created on the fourth day but earlier. Recent-creationists must first explain how there could be evening and morning with no sun the first three days, and they assert that there was a supernatural light source during that time interval. Furthermore, if they were not created until the fourth day, then what does 1:1 mean? If the sun, moon, and stars are not at least part of the heavens, what is? This is one of Dr. Sailhamer’s significant criticisms of the “simple, obvious, literal” interpretation.The fourth day
It may occur to an alert reader to ask to whom God proclaimed anything on the fourth day. The answer is that it is a comment to the reader after Moses, just the same as 2:24 which talks about a man leaving his father and mother when he gets married, which obviously did not apply to Adam and Eve.
A common alternative solution of this problem, proposed by advocates of long ages, is to interpret the fourth-day account as meaning the heavenly bodies became visible from the surface of the Earth due to the clearing of a previously cloudy atmosphere. This fits in with a reasonable scenario of the formation and cooling of the early Earth. But it still leaves me feeling a little awkward, constituting the most difficult aspect of a day-age interpretation. If the viewpoint is that of a hypothetical human observer on the surface of the Earth, then it is harder not to take evening and morning more literally, though it could still be a figurative expression. Dr. Sailhamer’s explanation seems much more straightforward.
All these considerations put together still do not lead clearly to a concept of several billion years. We don’t need them to do so. The point just is that once we escape from the 24-hour bottleneck in interpretation, there is no clear limit, and even billions of years are not ruled out by literal interpretation of the text. Theology is no longer constrained to a 24-hour interpretation. The time scale is left uncertain on the basis of the Scriptural text, and open to further information obtained from the study of nature. If nature seems to indicate billions of years, that does not create a conflict between theology and science.
How could God have made it any clearer that He really meant 24-hour days? That is an unanswerable question. The best response is, how could He have made it any clearer from the context that it does not (at least not necessarily) mean 24-hour days? And is there Biblical reason to think that it matters? The recent-creationist answer is, of course, that in their opinion all the above questions are still less convincing than the reasons for a 24-hour interpretation, and there are many reasons to think it matters, based on its connection with other theological issues. So we must move on to those issues. The first is perspicuity. Is it clear what an ordinary person, especially at the time it was initially spoken, would take to be the meaning of this passage, and is that necessarily the correct interpretation?Biblical perspicuity and authority
Assuming the arguable (but we won’t argue it right now) point that all Christian leaders from the early church to, say, the 19th century, believed in recent creation, must this be conclusive for us? The history of Christianity seems too full of too many widespread errors for this principle to be tenable; it leans perilously close to the Catholic elevation of tradition to a par with Scripture. See the comments at the end of ch. 5, I, F, on the significance of long-held opinions of church leaders. They are neither unimportant nor infallible. We must not lightly disregard them, but neither are we bound by them. Those leaders also believed the Earth was immovable at the center of the universe, and there were widespread beliefs about racial discrimination, slavery, monarchy, etc. Belief in a literal second coming of Christ was largely abandoned for centuries, but this is a prime tenet of many who use the traditional viewpoint as a support of the recent-creation interpretation. So it seems there is a double standard employed in invoking the authority of past church leaders. History gives scant encouragement to any statement that begins “God would never allow so many people to mistakenly believe….”
It is appropriate to ask why I think I and others in the late 20th century notice something in this passage that previous centuries of Bible scholars missed. That does seem presumptuous. On the interpretation of the creation account, I can only say that I have neither the time nor resources to see whether any earlier Bible scholars wondered about these verses that seem to refer to longer time periods. Surely some did, even if they left no record of it. I can only guess that they suppressed such questions under the pressure of prevailing opinion, and since the story has an irreducible miraculous element anyway, these parts can also be charged to that account. It may have become a conditioned mindset, so ingrained that it did not occur to anyone to view it differently until jogged to do so by some new factor such as 20th-century scientific discoveries. Through most of the centuries the leading Bible scholars had far more pressing matters to attend to, for which many faced martyrdom. As far as I know, the date of creation never was a life-and-death issue.
Speaking of Christian leaders, in the 1970s and 80s the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI) was formed and produced some outstanding books responding to attacks on the authority of the Bible. This was obviously a theologically conservative group of people, committed to the Bible and to taking a stand against prevailing opinion. In their official position statement, despite fervent pleading from recent-creationists, they declined to adopt the recent-creation interpretation of the Biblical account.
What about all the university professors of Hebrew who say Moses clearly was thinking about literal days? This is a good question, and I can’t answer for them. I do wonder why they have not noticed the other details in the content of the story. But the fact that most of them are non-Christian, cited by recent-creationists as evidence of their objectivity, may also be cited as evidence of their bias. Most such scholars have many other opinions about the meaning and origin of the Old Testament with which we disagree, such as their documentary hypothesis (ch. 6, III, D), and we feel that they distort many facts in order to find pretexts for their unbelief. This very issue of the 24-hour days is one point they consider as evidence of scientific error in the Bible. Be that as it may, there remains the issue of how certain anyone centuries removed from Moses can be about his thoughts on a particular detail, a single word. And there is the issue of whether what he thought was correct (ch. 5, I, F).
Even if we grant (but see the next paragraph) that the Bible gives no hint of long ages, that does not prove they could not be true. We could have fun listing things the Bible does not hint at: the creation of insects, the germ theory of disease, atomic structure of matter, the Ice Ages (maybe hinted at in Job), the distance of the planets and stars, existence of the American continents or Australia, the advantages or disadvantages of democratic government, etc. Of course, there is no reason why it should hint about these things, but is there reason for it to hint about long ages?
Speaking of hints, the Bible gives no hint of created or apparent age of the universe, nor of the instant-creation “fully formed and functioning” concept. The commonly-quoted “hint” of this is the creation of Adam’s body, and some of Jesus’ miracles. This is discussed later, under “created or apparent age.”
On the other hand, hints or the lack of them are in the eye of the beholder. We already discussed things right in Gen. 1 and 2 that seem clearly to refer to longer time periods. There are significant hints elsewhere too. The Old Testament, when referring to the long-term past, refers to the ancient mountains and everlasting hills, Gen. 49:26; Deut. 33:15, seeming to consider them older than mankind. See also Job 15:7; Prov. 8:25; Hab. 3:6. A human lifetime is referred to as merely “a breath,” like a fleeting puff of vapor on a cold day, Ps. 39:5; 144:4. If the authors believed it had been only a few thousand years since the creation of the universe, then a lifetime would be about 1/50 of this or more (for example, 80 years out of 4000), small but hardly describable as a fleeting breath in comparison. If a breath lasts a second or two, and a lifetime is 2 to 3 billion seconds, then we are in the range of the ratio of a lifetime to the estimated age of the universe.
In Job 20:4; Rev. 16:18 the phrase “since man was on the earth,” could at least be hinting that there was a time when man was not on the Earth, and therefore the Earth is considerably older than man. It could be argued that the speaker in Job (one of his “comforters”) was not exactly inspired. It is harder to dismiss the inspiration of John’s statement in Revelation.
In the New Testament, the apostles referred to their time as the “last days” or even the “last hour” at the “end of the ages” (note plural). Their time was the beginning of the church age, which has turned out to be at least 2000 years, so the ages preceding must have been much more than merely 2/3 of the time from creation to our time. I Cor. 10:11; II Tim 3:1-5; Heb. 1:2; 9:26; I Peter 1:20; I John 2:18.
I am not seriously claiming any certain or precise conclusions from this at all, but I am responding to the assertion that the Bible contains no hints of long ages.
Now, about authority. Is it a threat to Biblical authority to allow any consideration of scientific input in the process of interpreting the text? Not necessarily. The principles involved in sola scriptura and the “two books” were already discussed in ch. 5, I, F.
It is not true that all the theories of science have been disproved, or certainly will be, and therefore cannot be trusted. Some have stood the test of much time and observation. See ch. 2, III. There is a curious ambivalence in recent-creationists’ attitude toward science. One of the names they give for their position is “scientific creationism,” and they expend great effort in finding facts which may be viewed as supporting recent creation. Those facts and interpretations are presented with great confidence, and primarily about past events. But others that do not serve that purpose are downgraded with doubts about the reliability of observation and deduction about the past. This will be discussed more later in B, C. It seems that in regard to the validity of science they try to throw away their cake and eat it too. They have not yet produced a coherent philosophy of science.
The two diagrams represent two outlooks on the placement of the age of the universe in respect to the Bible and nature. The first diagram repeats its placement in my opinion, as shown in ch. 5, I, F, mostly within the bounds of nature, extending only slightly beyond that realm into aspects which can only be learned from the Bible. The second diagram represents the opinion of recent-creationists, that nature can tell us little about origins, even the date, and that we are primarily and clearly informed about this only in the Bible.
We all need a reminder that our faith should not become dependent on any particular scientific theory or fact, which can only confirm it and remove apparent conflicts (ch. 3, IV). However, recent-creationists themselves give great emphasis to facts which they feel support a young universe and Flood geology, and they express little reluctance to see their followers make these things an important, even essential, basis of their faith in the Bible. Again, this seems ambivalent, a double standard.
It is strange to hear Christians, of all people, objecting that what is incomprehensible is therefore meaningless. How many things that we believe are incomprehensible? There even are many human accomplishments and inventions that are incomprehensible to most of us. Long time spans are beyond our comprehension, but so is the size of the universe, and we do not therefore reject that as wasteful, meaningless or false. We happily accept it as one way that the heavens declare the glory of God (Ps. 19:1), so why not long times too? Why are a few billion years a problem for the eternal God? Rejecting it on these grounds is irrelevant and irreverent. The only thing that is incomprehensible is that Christians should consider this a reason to object to it. Atheists have sometimes raised such objections to ridicule the idea of creation, but Bible-believing Christians can hardly side with them on this point.Are long ages evolutionary and naturalistic?
It is an interesting historical question to study the rise of the concept that the age of the Earth is greater than a few thousand years. It started primarily from geology, well before Darwin. It is true that long time periods are a pre-requisite for the development of his theories, which obviously would be impossible within a few thousand years. So it seems he received them, not invented them. And the fact that they contributed to the development of his theories is not necessarily evidence that they must be wrong. Any good thing, like ice cream, can and will be misused.
A few billion years is just as inadequate for the success of evolution as a few thousand years. It is perhaps less obviously so to the uninitiated, and atheists take advantage of their gullibility, but that simply means we should initiate the uninitiated, not battle the billions of years. Recent-creationists are actually clear on this point. In other contexts they point this out themselves, yet when listing their objections to long ages they seem to become confused, and sound like they are afraid that given that much time evolution becomes believable, therefore a short time scale is an essential defense against evolution. It is not essential at all. This is another of recent-creationists’ many double standards.
Probability estimates of the time required for evolutionary success easily generate numbers like 10100 years, or even more digits in the exponent, so atheists and long-age creationists are separated by at least one hundred zeros, while long-age and recent-creationists are separated by only six! Surely they can be a little friendlier.
Applying the label “evolutionary” to the concept of a process of formation of the present universe represents unclear definition of words, which leads to confusion. Recent-creationists catch evolutionists playing tricks with the word “evolution,” unjustifiably equating micro-evolution with macro-evolution, and even stretching the word to cover imagined molecular precursors to life. Evolutionists also try to link up with the apparent success of the theory of stellar evolution. Recent-creationists soundly denounce the evolutionists for such shenanigans. But then they follow in those precise footsteps themselves, lumping all these things under the label “evolution” and therefore insisting it must all be thrown out. I even heard one of them criticizing the “evolutionary theory” of the origin of the carbon atom! The word “evolve” did, before Darwin, mean simply to develop, but in this discussion let’s agree to restrict it to a theory of the origin of living things. This point seems so obvious that there is little more to say. It is an outgrowth of the following issues.
Evolutionists do not own the age of the universe, and recent-creationists have no right to give it to them by referring to “evolutionary long ages.” The development of the universe and of living things are two separate subjects, astronomy and biology respectively. What God has left separate, let not man join together.
The claim that the Big Bang is inherently naturalistic or atheistic has no logical basis. It is a beginning which no known laws of science can account for; in fact it is the beginning of those laws. What is naturalistic or atheistic about this? I cannot imagine any reason why a Christian should object to an unexplained beginning because he is a Christian. We should welcome it as at least consistent with the Bible, in fact apparently a confirmation of it, and refute claims that is in any way in conflict with the Bible, while being careful not make it an essential basis of our faith. If the Big Bang theory is one day found false, that would only be one less confirmation of the Bible (depending on the nature of the theory that replaces it), but losing a confirmation does not equal producing a disproof. God has provided many other proofs.
Some atheists do claim that the Big Bang is a naturalistic theory that makes belief in God unnecessary, but the appropriate response is not to oppose the Big Bang but to expose the error of their logic. Even other atheists disagree with them, seeing the Big Bang as supernatural, and that is why they oppose it. The Big Bang is a hot potato that atheists have a hard time handling. The current opposition to the Big Bang is a strange and awkward alliance of recent-creationists and atheists. Polemics, like politics, makes strange bedfellows.
Accepting a Big Bang beginning places no prohibition on believing God may and does act however He pleases thereafter. My discussion of the universe and living things in ch. 6, I and II, is exactly such a viewpoint, seeing God at work both in providential guidance of “natural” events and in direct supernatural activity.
Of course a Christian and an atheist give the same account of sequential cause and effect in a natural process; that is the definition of natural. A recent-creationist and an atheist would give identical descriptions of the recent-creationist’s, or the atheist’s, mother’s pregnancy, but that is no reason to deny that her pregnancy really occurred. It is only in questions of origin and purpose that they differ.
There is an important principle and concept involved here. A Christian and an atheist would give essentially the same account of the entire recorded history of the human race. Must we therefore deny the existence of that history? Of course not. We as Christians see in that history the providential hand of God, guiding the rise and fall of nations and rulers, cultures, philosophies, and technology, to accomplish His purposes. We believe this even though we cannot point to any visible miraculous act or intervention. Thus there is no inherent problem in principle about believing that the process of development of the universe in general, and the solar system and Earth in particular, was providentially guided by God to accomplish His purposes. Contrast this with my suggested account of the origin of living things on the Earth, ch. 6, II, B, 9, where some visible interventions do seem necessary.
Back to the Big Bang. It is true that some of the researchers involved in developing the Big Bang are atheists, but that proves nothing about its truth or falsehood. Many atheists believe in Newton’s laws and the laws of thermodynamics, not to mention democracy, apple pie, and motherhood.
Laplace and others used Newton’s laws as an excuse to replace God, but that does not require us to reject Newton’s laws. Even earlier, Copernicus’ ideas were used as a basis for attack on the church and the faith it propagated, and this is one reason the theologians opposed those ideas and specifically Galileo when he advocated them. They felt this was an essential part of the defense of the faith. With the benefit of hindsight we see what a blunder that was. The error was not in Copernicus but in the church’s attachment to a different concept, and in the skeptics’ conclusion that an error in the church proved an error in the Christian faith. In a debate two negatives don’t make a positive, just a bigger mess.
The universe may or may not be infinite; that is still uncertain, and perhaps always will be. We can never prove that it is infinite on the basis of our finite observations; we may someday find evidence that it is finite. Be that as it may, the assumptions involved in the Big Bang model can be considered as only meaning the universe is large enough that wherever its limits are they are remote enough not to affect the part we see. In physics we do similar calculations about infinite charged plates and current-conducting wires to calculate the field near them, and no-one raises theological objections.
Even if the universe is infinite, that is not necessarily a theological problem. There are degrees of infinity; this is a fascinating area of mathematical theory, to which Georg Cantor made significant contributions motivated specifically by his Christian beliefs. Here are some simple examples that even I can understand. There is an infinite number of points in any given interval along a line, and the line may be extended to an infinite number of such intervals. An infinite number of lines is contained in a finite plane, an infinite number of planes in a finite space, and so on. The universe seems to be finite in time, and infinite in at most three dimensions. Physics in recent years has discovered possible evidence of more dimensions, up to ten or more; the other dimensions are said to be rolled up. Don’t ask me what that means! A universe infinite in three dimensions is no threat to the existence or transcendence of a God who exists in ten or more dimensions, some of which are perhaps also time dimensions. We must speak softly in presuming to be able to prove anything about such matters.
Pagan religions have a lot of evolutionary concepts, obviously as a substitute for the one true Maker of heaven and earth. But it is interesting to note that the prevalence of such myths in this case is used by recent-creationists as evidence of the evil origin of that concept, while the prevalence of flood legends is used as evidence of the truth of that story. A little more work needs to be done on a consistent standard of evaluating the significance of such myths. Perhaps the recent-creationists have simply not stated their reasoning precisely enough. The myths can be evaluated on the basis of their agreement with the Bible or lack of it, but if we then turn around and use these legends as a part of our reasons for believing the Bible, it has become a logical circle.
It should also be noted that pagan religious legends contain many elements of instant creation. What does that prove?
And now for the matter of motives. In some recent-creationists’ writings they seem unable to mention alternative viewpoints without attaching the pejorative labels “accommodation,” “compromise,” and comments about trying to please their secular colleagues. This is no doubt true in many cases, but it is not ours to determine which cases. As I stated at the beginning of this chapter, that is not my own motive.
This is a sensitive subject, on which the Bible commands us to tread very carefully. We cannot see others’ motives, and so can easily violate the commands “Do not judge.” (Mt. 7:1; Lk. 6:37; Rom. 14:4, 10; James 4:11, 12; 5:9) Recent-creationists’ zeal to defend the authority of the Bible is commendable, but while devoting so much attention to the passages referring to creation they should also spend a little time meditating on these passages. The first thing should be done, but the second not left undone (Luke 11:42).
Does the fact that long-age creationism is rejected by nonbelievers prove that it is false? There is no basis for accepting nonbelievers’ opinions as authoritative on any matters of truth, particularly on origins. They also reject many other things that the Bible teaches.
Jesus addressed many logical and factual arguments to the Jewish scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees of His day, but they responded by conspiring to send Him to crucifixion. Does this prove that Jesus’ motive and method was wrong?
To be consistent, recent-creationists’ practice of calling their position “scientific creationism” could also be considered an equally (or even more so) failed attempt to attract scientists. For both Biblical and practical reasons, accusations about motives must mostly be avoided.
Recent-creationists profess to be motivated purely by a desire to promote Biblical faith. Where there is any room for uncertainty, they say they prefer to err on the side of believing the Bible too much, not too little. This may be commendable in one way, but it is no excuse for running the risk of fleeing from one error into an opposite one. Erring on either side of the correct interpretation is a fault, and is liable to become a barrier to others’ understanding and believing the Bible. This is a heavy responsibility, and cannot be excused by pious professions of “believing the Bible too much.” They would do well to meditate on the stern Biblical warnings about adding to the Word of God, Deut. 12:32; Prov. 30:6; Rev. 22:18.
If long-age creation represents a lack of courage to face criticism, then why do so many of us persist in that view despite criticism from both nonbelievers and their recent-creationist fellow believers? We get attacked from both directions, which is not easy to endure. It’s not a position for cowards.
Some recent-creationists insist that any long-age viewpoint must be attributed to “predilections” in viewing the Biblical and scientific information. It cannot be denied that we all have many preconceptions of which we are not sufficiently aware, and which we can help each other notice and if necessary reconsider. Notice I said “we all.” Let him who is without predilections cast the first stone.
In Mt. 7 after His command not to judge in vs. 1, Jesus goes on to say a few verses later, 15-20, “By your fruit you shall know them (false prophets).” So we are supposed to evaluate results that we can see. Now to consider the results of both recent-creation and long-age teaching, obeying Jesus’ instruction to be fruit inspectors.
There are many instances in which people who were once convinced of recent creation and of faith in the Bible as a whole, later were influenced to completely reject that faith, including recent creation. In some cases, contact with the long-age viewpoint played a role in that process. Every individual is complex, and only God really knows all the factors involved. We all regret anyone’s weakening or loss of faith. But there are also many people for whom recent creation was and still is a barrier to faith, but contact with the long-age viewpoint cleared up their problem and played a role in their coming to faith. So both viewpoints have played a role in some people’s coming to or strengthening faith, and in others’ loss or weakening of it. It is impossible to do a meaningful survey to determine the number of people in these categories, but I have my hunch. Only God knows the numbers, and the real motives of people’s hearts, and only He can judge justly. People are responsible for their heart attitude. We are responsible for the way we help or hinder them. Proponents of any particular viewpoint would be wise to speak softly and slowly in presenting anecdotal evidence for their viewpoint and against others.
There is an alternative interpretation of the cases in which people initially accept recent creation, and later reject both it and the Bible as a whole, perhaps in connection with hearing long-age views. This alternative is that the purported basis for recent creation contains many flaws. Many people initially accept it as the primary basis of their faith in the Bible. When they become aware of those flaws, it creates a crisis in their faith. Many other people see these flaws in the first place, and are thus hindered from ever coming to faith. Thus the flaws in the case for recent creation become an unnecessary hindrance to beginning or continuing faith. Those who propagate such flaws carry a heavy responsibility; I would not want to stand in their shoes or anywhere near them at the judgment, however well-intentioned they may be. We all must tremble at our responsibility for our influence. “Such things (offenses) must come, but woe to the man through whom they come.” Matthew 18:6, 7
Let’s look closely at the positive results of recent-creation ministry. Those who report that recent creation was a help to their faith are almost all helped by acceptance of the fact of creation, and simply accept the date issue as part of the package, a part which they are not competent to judge for themselves. The recent-creationist speakers and writers seem so knowledgeable about the origin and development of living things, they must also know what they are talking about on the date issue. Only a tiny few consider the date of creation as crucial and a help to them, and even in these cases the logic of that view is questionable.
After decades of recent-creation activity, I have yet to find a single testimony in their own publications stating that a person was convinced by a knowledgeable evaluation of the scientific case as presented for recent creation. I have asked several leaders of the movement if they know of such a case, and they apparently do not. They have not supplied any. They account for their own belief in recent creation as beginning when they became persuaded that it is what the Bible teaches, and continuing primarily on that basis. They of course perceive many facts as supportive of that view; we will consider these in the following two sections. We will find that the facts are not at all convincing in support of recent creation; that perception is consciously maintained by a selective view of the data. Their own statement is that the facts must be viewed through the glasses of (their interpretation of) the Bible (parenthetical comment mine).
If there are knowledgeable, competent people in these fields who believe in recent creation of the universe, why have they not yet produced knowledgeable, competent presentations of it? This is a risky, provocative question, presuming that I am qualified to judge others’ knowledge and competence. Frankly, in the areas of atmospheric physics and astronomy, I can justify that claim. Furthermore, those are precisely the fields in which recent-creationists have so far not been able to produce one single testimonial of a favorable response to their presentation. I am not the only one who is unimpressed. Those who are impressed are educated, capable, intelligent, sincere, trained and active in other fields, even those peripherally related to these two, but not directly related. The members of creationist organizations are mostly doctors, biologists, and engineers. Physicists, chemists, and geologists are present but fewer, and they came to faith in recent creation through the Biblical route, not scientific evidence. There are only two openly recent-creationist professional astronomers in the world, Danny Faulkner and Ron Samec. Dr. Faulkner is a graduate of Bob Jones University, and Dr. Samec teaches there. They know of no others, though Dr. Faulkner reports (in a personal communication) meeting a few others who keep their beliefs secret from their colleagues for fear of losing their positions. Dr. Samec would lose his position if he did not believe recent creation. Dr. Faulkner’s position in a public university is thus far not threatened.
Recent-creationist leaders attribute this tiny response to brainwashing by the educational process in these fields, astronomy and atmospheric science. But there is no small number of evangelical Christians in these fields, perhaps even a higher proportion than in biology and geology, which are so directly dominated by evolutionary indoctrination. I myself am such a person. We cannot all be written off as brainwashed.
I have never heard of a debate on the age of the universe between a recent-creationist and a competent astronomer. There have been many creation-evolution debates, all of which center on design of living things. No recent-creationist would dare debate the age issue with a competent expert. Yet they publish their materials on the date of creation, and encourage students at all levels to incorporate this information in reports to hand in to non-Christian science teachers. But I have never seen a published testimonial of the results when high-school students take the purported case for recent creation into their science classroom. There are no reports from either the students or the teachers. I cringe to think of the experience of some of these students when the errors of that material are exposed; for how many of them is this one important factor in “losing their faith”? For how many of the teachers is this one more barrier to their ever taking the Bible seriously as the Word of God? It is impossible to obtain any meaningful data on this question. No recent-creationist would dare investigate those results, or publish them if he did. Once again, woe to him by whom the offense comes. Recent-creationists burden these sincere young people with a load they themselves do not lift a finger to move, Matthew 23:4.
To give credit where credit is due, there are a few lonely voices in the recent-creationist community. They include the two astronomers, and a few friends in physics and other fields. Their belief in recent creation begins from Biblical arguments, and they criticize the flaws of common recent-creationist scientific objections to the Big Bang and long ages. One is Don DeYoung, a physicist who attributes his interest in astronomy to looking through my telescope when were grad-school classmates in the 60s. Another is Kurt Wise, a paleontologist who got his PhD under Stephen Jay Gould, one of the foremost advocates of evolution. Dr. Wise does good work on the origin of living things, which is within his area of expertise. But the origin and age of the universe and even the Earth is not. He acknowledges the poor quality of most recent-creationist material, and rejects the “Bible over science” philosophy. But he also stereotypes all long-age advocates as adopting the “different realms, no overlap” position.
There are no doubt errors in Biblical interpretation committed by advocates of long-age creation. It is easier for them to lean toward the liberal viewpoint than for recent-creationists. But those errors are not essential or basic to long-age creation. Similarly, a survey of ideas propounded by recent-creationists would be very interesting and embarrassing. Being a counter-establishment movement, recent creation attracts some unconventional people, but being unconventional is not essential or basic to recent creation. This point, like motivation, is best set aside. But it does concern me that I have seen no expression of concern by the leaders about the excesses of some of their followers, nor effort to impose any degree of quality control. Friends have loaned me videotapes of lectures by local recent-creationist speakers, which are incredibly incompetent. I could only advise them to use the tape as a blank.
Recent-creationists are indulging in the tactic of guilt by association, just as they do when they complain that the Big Bang is advocated by some atheists. It is true that virtually all who reject the Bible believe in long ages. I know of none who believe in recent creation for reasons unrelated to the Bible. As for professing Christians, this diagram represents the possibilities. Virtually all who are liberal and thus deny the Biblical gospel also reject recent creation in favor of long ages. But those who believe in long ages need not deny the gospel. I don’t. Those who believe recent creation could in principle deny the gospel, but in practice they rarely would because that belief comes only from very conservative Bible interpretation, which usually also leads to belief in the gospel. To take the Bible that seriously about the date issue but misconstrue the gospel teachings, one would just about have to be in a cult group following an authoritarian leader.
A common expression in this discussion is the “slippery slope” concept, that once you start in a given direction, considered by its critics to be downward, then there is nowhere to justify stopping. Even if one particular individual somehow finds a place to cling somewhere along the way, others continue sliding. In some contexts this is a valid concept, when truly essential principles are abandoned. I myself apply it to liberal theologians’ abandonment of Biblical inspiration and authority. However, like all labels it must be applied carefully. In many cases the truth is found at a point of balance between two opposite extremes; slippery slopes often come in pairs. People who shout warnings about one slippery slope may not notice they are halfway down the other one. Long-age creation may be construed as raising questions about Biblical authority in the creation account (though it need not be so construed), and this leads to questions about many other things in the Bible. However, recent creation invokes principles of disregard of the characteristics of the universe, and insinuations about the motives of other believers and scientists, and this lead to many errors of logic and narrow-minded judgmental statements about others who hold different viewpoints. Perhaps it need not do so, but I have seen very few in whom it does not. As a final twist on the slippery slope theme, the truth may be found at the bottom of some slopes, as we find clues that lead us closer to the truth from an initially erroneous viewpoint. Perhaps this would be better described as climbing a slope; I leave the choice of metaphor as an exercise for the reader.
Hugh Ross seems to be a lightning rod for recent-creationists’ ire. He is currently (2000) the most conspicuous individual advocate of the long-age creation position, with his organization, books, tapes, speaking engagements, TV program, and web-site. I do not give a blanket endorsement of his ideas. Recent-creationists produce quotations from his talks and writings that seem at least unfortunately stated, which they proceed to criticize harshly. Perhaps he tries too hard to find direct Biblical teaching of long ages, and makes some errors in the process. Perhaps he tries too hard to have an answer for everything. But even if most of the recent-creationists’ criticisms are true, they are not crucial to the truth of his main conclusions. He certainly has far fewer faults than recent-creationists that will offend those who are scientifically competent. He is open to correction. He emphasizes prayer support for his ministry. And he reports a very successful evangelistic ministry among scientists, especially professing atheists, including many for whom recent creation is an obstacle to faith in the Bible and God. I would rather give his materials than recent-creationists’ to a non-Christian scientist.
One of their harshest critiques of Hugh Ross is an entire book named, the same as his, Creation and Time, and written specifically as a rebuttal to his book. Reading their book is sad and frustrating, because so much of it consists of unverified insinuation and opinion. To give just one example typical of many in the book, on pg. 109 they quote a statement by Hugh Ross that “God does not create with appearance of age.” Their response immediately follows, beginning “It is dangerous to teach that God could not create a universe,…in a short period of time.” “Does not” and “could not” are two different things, and they give no substantiation of their claim that Hugh Ross states God could not. Such tactics are just pouring trouble on oiled waters, and are helpful to no one. Even if most of the book’s criticisms of Hugh Ross’s Bible interpretation and use of reference materials are valid, that is of course unfortunate but they are not fatal to his conclusions, and this book’s glaring faults and bitter attitude undermine whatever value it might have. Many recent-creationists are embarrassed by the tone of the book. As for content, it reiterates many of the usual recent-creationist arguments that are discussed in this chapter.
Another target of recent-creationist fire is the American Scientific Affiliation, which publishes the quarterly Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith. Its early membership in the 40s included many advocates of recent-creationism, but they were unable to win all the members’ acceptance of a commitment to that position. This was a source of frustration to them. When the Creation Research Society was formed, largely motivated by the sense of a need for an alternative to ASA, most recent-creationists left ASA and joined it, though a few continue membership in both. Membership in ASA requires acceptance of a very simple statement of Christian faith, requiring only a belief in God’s “creating and preserving the universe,” which leaves room for a wide range of views. Many of the members lean far toward liberal theology, and also theistic evolution; I do not imply a necessary correlation between the two. I disagree with quite a bit of the contents of PSCF, but also find much that is very helpful. At least it provides an open forum for competent review and discussion, far more so than anything recent-creationists have produced. It often contains critical evaluations of recent-creationist materials. Recent-creationists of course find it totally unsatisfactory.
Finally, recent-creationist criticism focuses on Wheaton College as the most outstanding of many Christian colleges and seminaries that decline to adopt the recent-creation position. I would be the last to claim any of these institutions is flawless, in fact I agree that many have moved much too far toward a liberal position. But I read a lot of good things in the Wheaton alumni material I receive, and hear good things from people who are there. They are still preparing young people committed to Christ and His kingdom, as the school motto proclaims. They do not propagate the fallacies and attitudes that this chapter describes in the recent-creationist community, and that are taught in some other schools. This is not a blanket condemnation of such schools; I have fine friends who are faculty or students there. But if you want my opinion about where to learn to honor God and also get a good education,…
In light of the way leading recent-creationist writers treat those who disagree with them, I hesitated to write this chapter. But it expresses what I feel the Lord has led me to believe, and what many people have given very positive response to. As Paul said in I Cor. 4:3-5, I accept judgment only from the Lord.
Finally, there is the role naturalistic evolution, or evolutionary naturalism, has played in the 20th-century horrors of atheistic totalitarian states and decadent trends in modern “free” society. There is no question that evolution is conveniently adaptable to these purposes, and an attitude of reverence toward our Creator is not. That is why these states and movements so bitterly oppose any such reverence, and aggressively propagate godless evolutionary concepts in its place. But is evolution really the disease, or just one among many symptoms? Let’s not give evolution more credit than it is due. People were atheistic, ruthless, and immoral long before Charles Darwin. And a lot of them even committed their cruel deeds in the name of the Bible, God, and misconstrued “Christian” theology. The historical argument against evolution is not such a tidy case.
Since naturalism, and its philosophical root atheism, are at least willing accomplices to much crime, is recent-creationism the primary bastion defending against it? Biblical theistic creation certainly is, but is the date of creation logically, or Biblically, crucial to this defense? This argument too is unconvincing.
This seems to be one of the most popular aspects of recent-creationism, and greatest sources of confusion. Many people who discuss the subject casually with me bring this up as a convenient loophole that saves them considering the subject specifically. God could do whatever He chose, and it doesn’t matter much to them what that was. If this question is no significant threat or support for their faith, then they can leave it at that. But it will not do for those who feel the need to consider the subject more carefully.Created or apparent age
Many people have reminded me that Jesus instantly created the wine at the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-12), or bread and fish for a large crowd (John 6:1-14 and several parallel passages). They also mention that God created Adam as a viable individual, in fact a vast number of living organisms, as discussed in ch. 6, II. And they tell me all these as if I must have never heard them or at least never realized their implications. But applying these as a precedent to which the origin of the universe must conform contains at least three errors which invalidate the analogy.
First, it assumes a uniformitarianism in God’s miraculous acts. There is no basis for such an assumption. God’s miracles show endless variety and creativity. Uniformitarianism applies only where God has chosen to be uniform, which is what we call laws of nature. Recent-creationists are quick to assume variations in those unvarying laws, but presume to impose uniformitarianism on God’s varying miracles.
Second, the universe does not need to be in its present state, fully formed and functioning, in order to exist at all. Half a universe will get along just fine, but half a man will not. There is no inherent difficulty involved in the universe passing through a series of intermediate stages. But Adam needed at least a considerable degree of development in order to survive at all; this is one of the key objections to the theory of gradual evolution, ch. 6, II, B, 7. Wine, fish, and bread need a minimum of structure to be edible. There are other instances where there is no alternative to instant creation of something from nothing: the resurrection of Jesus’ dead body from the tomb, and our own receiving of eternal life. The analogy to the universe does not apply.
Third, and most important, this is confusing maturity with age, or apparent age with apparent history. The wine, bread, fish, and Adam were mature systems, and the issue of age arises because ordinarily they are produced by a process which takes time, so their existence ordinarily implies such a process, and the associated age or time-period. Age is not merely a condition; it is also the actual passage of time, real history, and the marks left by that history. Therefore what recent-creationists really mean in the case of the universe is apparent history. The universe has this, but the wine and Adam need not have it. The bread and fish are an interesting borderline case. Again the analogy does not stand up under scrutiny.
What was Adam like one minute after his creation? What would have resulted from a careful examination of his body and surroundings, and an interview? Did he have an apparent history? In the discussion of the length of the 6th day we already mentioned that language ability seems to require a background of experience; did he have a language he had never learned, and a memory of past experiences that had not really occurred? Did he have memories, a photo album, and moldy 8-mm home movies of his childhood? Did he already know his way around the Garden before he had actually explored it? Were there scratches or scars on his body? How long was his hair and fingernails? Was it neatly cut? It is often a joke to ask if Adam and Eve had navels, but it really is a good question. To raise a really gut-level question, was there anything in his intestine at that moment before he ate his first bite of food? We must of course assume God created him with oxygen and sugar in his blood.
As for his surroundings, did he find his own footprints all over the Garden the first time he explored it? Were there ashes in his fireplace, trash in the wastebasket, cobwebs in the closet, fingerprints in the dust on the books in the library and dirty thumbprints on some of the pages, a partly used checkbook, letters in the mailbox, dirt in his vacuum cleaner bag, scratches on his ATM card, old files on his computer hard drive? Were there growth rings in the trees? I have never heard any recent-creationist propose that Adam and the Garden had all these things, except that there has been discussion about the trees.
But this is precisely the kind of things the universe possesses, with many records and remains of past events (see the beginning of sec. III). The simplest is the light and other signals arriving to tell us what is out there, and where; it presumably took a certain amount of time for this light to reach us with its information, and that information in turn quite directly represents objects in the midst of ongoing long-term processes. This light not only needs to reach us within 6000 years; it had to reach the earth within 12 hours to fit the recent-creation interpretation of the fourth day of creation, or at least within 60 hours for Adam’s first night. After becoming a biologist during his first day, he became an astronomer his first night.
As discussed in sec. C on scientific matters, recent-creationists do feel considerable discomfort with these questions and have made several attempts to answer them. Either these light waves at first traveled much faster than they now do to reach us from distant galaxies so quickly, or it is not actually from them but was created already on its way. If it was created already on its way, then it is unknown and irrelevant whether anything more distant than, say, 10,000 light years really exists. At least the past events reported by those signals are nonexistent; those expanding and colliding gas clouds and jets, exploding supernovae, pulsing variables, etc. never existed. It is all created history, a cosmic light show. Most of our own Milky Way Galaxy, and the entire rest of the universe, may not really exist.
What God could do, should do, and did do are three separate questions, and must not be scrambled together. That is precisely what usually happens, when a question about what God did do is answered by discussing what He could or should do. What God could do is anything. What God should do is nothing, at least not what our opinions may happen to prefer. He is sovereign and far beyond our understanding. With the first two questions settled in one word each, we can proceed to the third one.Three questions
What did He do? This can perhaps be determined by investigating the products of His actions, and perhaps He has told us something about it. Science investigates those products, and consistently indicates a very long sequence of events; see sec. B and C. I have already explained why I do not believe created age is what the creation account describes.
One more line of evidence is relevant. He has also told us about His character, which determines what He would do. The issue is not whether creation of apparent age is within God’s power, but whether it is consistent with His character as stated in the Bible. I will not presume to give an airtight answer to this question, but some comments seem relevant. It is difficult not to associate the word “nonexistent” with “illusory,” and “illusory” with “deceptive.” Recent-creationists reply that it is no more deceptive than the wine, bread, and fish. But those things were created before the eyes of the disciples and the servants or the crowd, to teach them something. Who was present to see the creation of the universe and/or its light waves, and be impressed? Jesus did not criticize the host at the wedding for assuming the wine had come through the usual means; he had not seen what really happened. Recent-creationists reply that God has told us that He made the universe instantly, so it is not deceptive; is that really what He has told us? That was already discussed earlier.
What stated or conceivable purpose is served by creating the universe with apparent history? What need is there to do so? There are no other unstated miracles in the Bible, which God pointed out afterwards, unless we include the countless events we consider providential in hindsight. Or perhaps the unaware prophecies in the Old Testament which Jesus fulfilled (ch. 5, I, F). But what analogy is there between these and apparent but unreal history of the universe? God does not seem in the habit of leaving many unnecessary disguised miracles scattered everywhere (ch. 5, V, A, 2).
My point is not to prove that created age is deceptive and therefore false. What I aim to prove is that recent-creationists are unsuccessful in their arguments that that is practically required. If when I arrive in heaven I find out that the universe is in fact young, I will not walk out in protest, but I will be surprised. But it won’t be my only surprise in heaven.
Diverting slightly from this subject we should mention the other extreme. There are Christians who argue that God’s character requires Him to act only once in the initial moment of creation, and to design everything such that no further intervention is required forever after. Currently this is the position taken by Howard vanTill, and he even gives it a name and elevates it to the status of a doctrine. This is the subject of considerable debate, and rightly so. It is difficult or impossible to distinguish this position from deism, and vanTill seems not to have satisfactorily answered inquiries regarding his view of miracles, particularly the resurrection of Jesus. Recent-creationists insist God must create everything fully formed and functioning, and vanTill insists God must create everything simple with potential to develop. Both quote early church fathers in support of their views. They are equally unconvincing.
Recent-creationists do not yet have a consistent philosophy of historical research, at least not in general circulation among them. On one hand some of their statements amount to a virtual agnosticism about all history. But on the other hand, the movement would be nothing without its “scientific” side, its claim to be competent, based on reasonable interpretation of evidence. It cannot afford to concede that the universe really looks old. It cannot abandon its claims of much evidence that creation was recent. Yet it invokes a principle of apparent history that undermines the significance of all evidence. Once again, they are trying to throw away their cake and eat it too.What do we know about the past? How do we know?
First, there is the objection in principle about any attempt to reconstruct the unobserved past. We already discussed in ch. 1 the charge that scientific theories are all doomed to eventual overthrow and therefore may be disregarded, and in ch. 5, I, F, 3 how this relates to resolving apparent conflicts with Biblical teaching. As was stated in the summary of recent creationism, time will tell. It is undeniable that the scientific community is biased, and there are clear incidents of suppression of ideas and people who did not follow the party line. But none of that is at issue in this discussion. We are mostly discussing observed facts on which no one raises any questions, and we are trying to decide what we think of these facts, not what the consensus of the scientific or recent-creationist communities think of them.
Recent-creationists often point out how estimates of the age of the universe have changed in the 20th century. The estimated age has risen from several hundred million years to two billion to over ten billion. They conclude this shows that the estimates are still meaningless and baseless. This is a baseless conclusion. The study of anything must begin with a lot of mistakes, and measurements must be approximate before they can be precise. To be consistent, we would have to list early inaccurate estimates of the diameter of the earth, and conclude that the earth is not actually round or that its diameter is still totally unknown.
We could also list many failed theories in recent-creationist literature. Correction of errors in science is portrayed by recent-creationists as evidence of failure, but correction of errors in recent-creationist thinking is portrayed as evidence that they are carrying on a healthy self-correcting process of research. This is a double standard. If correction of previous errors is a sin, recent-creationists cannot throw the first stone.
On what criterion do they accept evidence for recent creation and Flood geology but reject evidence that the universe is old? One commonly stated criterion is that only recorded history is reliable, within the span of human civilization. But this criterion rapidly collapses in the face of practical examples. Even written records of course require careful selection and interpretation on the basis of other materials including much that is not written. Much of historical research involves unwritten artifacts and other clues. Even police investigation of a recent crime often involves unwritten evidence of events no one witnessed, at least no one now alive and willing totalk! No recent-creationist advocates shutting down all the detective offices. John believed in Jesus’ resurrection when he saw the nonverbal empty grave-clothes left in the tomb (John 20:3-8), and in doing so he was reasoning from the present to the unobserved past in a very exceptional case.
Recent-creationists’ own Flood geology is nothing if not the attempt to reconstruct unseen past events from unwritten evidence, and recent-creationists have expended vast man-hours and paper and ink in that pursuit. They show no fear that it is all logically flawed at its starting point. They preach skepticism about the unrecorded past, but they do not practice it.
If research is valid, say, for 1000 years ago, within the span of recorded history, which no recent-creationist would reject, then why not for 10,000 years ago? If so, why not for 100,000 years? If so, why not 1,000,000? And so on. What line can be drawn, where? Recent-creationists are on a slippery slope, and the truth lies at the bottom. We extend uniformitarian reasoning as far as there seem to be no other events and causes that intervened. Recent-creationists assert that God has told us other causes intervened less than 10,000 years ago. Has He?
Even in regard to written records, how do we know they really were written if we did not witness the writing ourselves? If God can create unwritten traces of a nonexistent history, then certainly He could create written ones. He wrote on Moses’ stone tablets, and on the Babylonian wall in Daniel’s time. Maybe He wrote the whole Bible, Adam and Eve never lived, Jesus was never born or crucified, and creation actually occurred less than 2000 years ago. And when you think about it, how trustworthy is even our own memory? Maybe this morning never really happened, but creation occurred at noon, and I never wrote this book you are now reading. If God created Adam with a memory (discussed earlier), couldn’t God have created ours too? Recent-creationists protest that this argument is a straw man; none of them ever advocated such a position. I never said any of them advocated this, only that it is a slippery slope; there seems no reason their logic cannot lead to it, whether they follow it there or not. The recent-creationist Russell Humphreys in early articles listed purported evidences of recent creation, but later he seems to have changed his mind. In his book Starlight and Time he gives many of the same reasons I do to be dissatisfied with apparent age, created light waves, and so on. That is why he is trying to develop a different solution that combines an old universe with a young earth. It is a commendable but desperate search for an interpretation of nature that is consistent with the recent-creation interpretation of the Bible. It is specifically discussed in sec. C.
Recent-creationists strongly emphasize their contention
that long-age creation leads to the concept of death before Adam, and thus
to destruction of the gospel; this will be discussed later. At this point
it is appropriate to note that recent creation leads inexorably to a concept
of created history, which logically leads to serious questions about the
reality of Adam’s sin and Jesus’ salvation. Of course no recent-creationists
raise such questions, but long-age creationists don’t themselves view their
own position as undermining the gospel either. Atheists may distort both
viewpoints in this way, but since when do we consider them the final authority
or try to please them?
Nothing else in Biblical revelation requires believing anything against overwhelming and increasing evidence, not even belief in God’s love and sovereignty in this depraved valley of tears. If there were many strong evidences against the Bible’s historical accuracy, that would be a major and unavoidable difficulty for our faith, and we would have to deal with it. Accusations of compromise and accommodation, and exhortations to loyalty to the faith, would be irrelevant.
Recent-creationists are carrying on a love-hate affair with both apparent age and science, two-timing both of them, willing neither to marry nor break off with either one. They continue to love each one when they need it and leave it when they don’t. If they really believed in apparent age, which includes created history, then they would happily watch, and even join, the study of that history, which is as real as anything else God created. But they do not, and instead accuse scientists who study it of making invalid naturalistic assumptions. Thus even those who preach apparent age do not really practice it.
This ambivalence about the study of the past is a persistent fatal flaw in recent-creationism. It is an important aspect of the Kansas Board of Education debacle of 1999-2000. That board in 1999 rejected a proposed science policy statement heavily influenced by that of the state of California, which clearly adopts metaphysical naturalism (see ch. 2). However, in rejecting these objectionable statements, the board was influenced by recent-creationists to adopt a statement that omitted virtually all study of the past of the Earth and the universe. The press coverage of all this was of course highly distorted and emotional. The board did not remove all mention of evolution, only its status as absolute truth with unqualified scientific support. The board wanted students told about the problems with the theory too. But in rejecting sound research about the history of the Earth and universe, they gave the establishment legitimate grounds for complaint, and lost whatever credibility they might have otherwise had. The offending board members were wiped off the slate in the 2000 elections. The whole incident thus ends up doing more harm than good, establishing a precedent which will be a barrier forever after to the advocacy of a properly balanced policy.
Another argument used for apparent age of the universe is that it is really only a speeding up of the processes, and once again the wine, bread, fish, and Adam’s body are cited as precedents. It is said that in these miracles God simply speeded up the processes usually used to make wine, bread, or a human body, and therefore He probably did the same with the universe. But these examples have nothing to do with speed. Put pure water in a bottle, and how long must we wait for it to turn into wine? Time will only turn it into stale water, not wine. Alcohol molecules contain carbon atoms; water does not. Time does not turn water into wine; it is grapevines and yeast that do it, with several other ingredients added to the recipe. Nor does time turn some bread into more bread, only into dry, moldy bread. Time does turn fish into more fish, but not dead ones in a basket, and furthermore those presumably were cooked. Applying this principle to Adam, no recent-creationist has envisioned Adam’s body as rapidly inflating in a few minutes from egg cell to embryo to fetus to infant, with no assistance from a mother’s womb, and on to adolescent and adult. The “speeded up” explanation is irrelevant nonsense.A question of speed
As for a “fiat,” or instant, and “ex nihilo” creation, the Big Bang is something from no known previous source, and its characteristics were all determined within 10-43 second. That is precisely ex nihilo and pretty instant! It is truly perplexing to see Christians objecting to this as unacceptable. Their sole true objection is that they are convinced He has told us that is not what He did, nor that long ago. All other complaints are merely dredged up in an attempt to provide additional support to that objection. It is not helped by such support.
But does the concept of a fiat, “God said,” or “the Word of the Lord,” necessarily imply the objective must be completed instantly? It is easy with simple reference materials to find many instances where it does not. Even I did it. These terms occur in connection with the weather, lightning, hail, rain, snow, wind, etc., which is only providentially timed but otherwise produced through the usual processes (Job 36:32; 37:6; Ps. 147:15 - 18; Amos 5:8; 9:6). This applies also to armies, kings, battles, victory, destruction (II Kings 3:10, 13; 24:3; Ps. 44:4; 71:3; Isa. 13:3; 48:15; Jer. 34:22; Lam 1:17; 3:38; Amos 6:11; 9:9).
The New Testament verses that seemingly tie together the beginning of the universe and human race, including those quoting Jesus Himself, are insufficient basis for such a conclusion. The Greek words translated “creation” or “world” are aion or kosmos, which according to my books have many different meanings depending on the context, referring to the universe, planet earth, human race, or ordered society. They are profound philosophical terms. The experts have opinions about what they mean in a particular passage, but I can’t help wondering how accurate they can be in each specific case. (ch. 5, I, F)
God’s outlook on time is different from ours. He chose us before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4) and wrote our names in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8; 17:8) before we even existed let alone chose to believe. Many prophecies are written in the past tense; familiar examples are Isa. 53 and Ps. 22, and there are many more. Theologians call this the “prophetic past tense.” What God foresees and foreordains is as good as done. Moses himself wrote in Ps. 90:4, “In your eyes a thousand years are as a day, as a watch in the night.” Just so we don’t merely think God’s clock runs faster than ours, Peter tells us in II Pet. 3:8 that “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day.” In prophecy future events are often run together that we now know are separated by many centuries. Those referring to the first (2000 years ago) and second (still future) return of Christ may be run together in a single sentence. This is sometimes explained as similar to distant mountain peaks which seem indistinguishable even though separated along our line of sight by many miles. If God so refers to the future which is a few thousand years away, why not also the past? These phrases do not constitute a strong case for tying the origin of the human race closely in time to the origin of the universe. They are passing comments in passages devoted to other issues. They are clear statements of God’s eternal and unchangeable purposes, but not his detailed timetable.
I do not remember this being emphasized in my early years of contact with recent creation in the 60s, but in the 90s this has become one of its primary rallying battle-cries. It deserves careful consideration.No death, decay, or suffering before Adam
First let’s dispose of atheists’ opinions that long ages of decay, suffering, and death are a wasteful, cruel, trial and error procedure, which virtually proves there is no God or He is not loving and wise. Since when do we accept their opinions as authoritative on such subjects? They make similar disparaging comments about Jesus’ substitutionary atoning death, shedding His blood for our sins. They ridicule this as “slaughterhouse religion.” It also sounds very similar to their comments about the problems of suffering and evil in our present world, insisting that that is not possibly the way a good God would operate. So it is appropriate to move slowly and cautiously in accepting their conclusions about origins.
It is trial by error to accuse long-age progressive creationism of “trial and error.” That is an accurate description of the naturalistic evolutionary model. But when it is envisioned as the way God worked, it has no such implication. The God of the Bible does not need trials nor make errors. Every step of the process is planned, purposeful, and successful. Apparent waste is only in the eye of the beholder.
Another atheist opinion is that the vast size of the universe proves we could not really be that important to the Creator if there is one. “Why waste all that space?” they ask. “Why waste all that time?” recent-creationists ask. To answer one is to answer the other.
Consider God’s method of populating heaven. He produced the entire human race beginning from two people. Actually He began with one, then observed that it was not good for him to be alone, and prepared a helper for him. Together they fell into sin and took all mankind down with them, and the world became so full of evil and suffering that it had to be destroyed by a Flood and start over from eight people this time. Meanwhile the highest of the angels rebelled and many followed his lead becoming Satan and the demons, and they were allowed to wreak vast havoc in disrupting God’s work in the world. The Jewish nation began from Abraham, but as a nation totally misunderstood and failed in its mission as the chosen people. To provide salvation for this undeserving human race, God’s own Son became one of us and was crucified, died, and rose. Beginning from a motley few disciples He established the church, which spread rapidly, but as institutional Christianity it proceeded to record 2000 years of chaos, confusion, and disgrace to His name. And the majority of the human race finally spends eternity in hell, not heaven. Yet the gospel has spread throughout the world, many believed it, and the story ends with God and the saints blessed together forever.
We would surely find a better way! Small beginnings, long slow processes, and apparent failure and waste seem to be a frequent pattern in God’s will and ways. In the light of God’s chosen plan for populating heaven, perhaps we who believe this Biblical viewpoint should speak softly in suggesting what would and would not be an appropriate means for Him to populate the Earth.
In making such comments we teeter on the brink of giving God advice. This has a long history among the human race, tracing back to Peter advising Jesus against being crucified, and further back to Job and his comforters all making statements about what God would and wouldn’t do. In fact it traces right back to Eden, where the serpent asked “Has God said…?” and proceeded to assert that what God said was wrong. We must be careful to avoid following in their footsteps, and especially careful when it is atheists who are influencing us to do so.
This assertion that “God is wrong” is either true or false. If it is true, then either we are mistaken and He did not in fact do or say that, or He is wrong and we must refute Him and rebel. Eve (and Adam standing alongside) accepted the serpent’s opinion as true, and chose to refute God and rebel. Recent-creationists of course dare not do that, but they accept atheists’ comments criticizing a long-age method of creation, so they can only try to deny that God would and did do that. The correct response is to point out that the criticism is false. Recent-creationists are compromising and accommodating to atheists’ opinions. As in created age, perhaps they are replacing what God says He did with what they think He should have done.
God expresses little appreciation for such advice from us, Job 38:2, 3; 40:1, 2, 7, 8; 42:7, 8; Mt. 16:23. In Isaiah 55:8, 9 He says “My thoughts are not your thoughts.” Both Job and his friends had a lot to say about what God would or would not, should or should not, do, and all were soundly rebuked. So was Peter. God’s response to Adam and Eve, and curse on the serpent, requires no recounting. In the end God commanded Job to pray for his mistaken friends who accused him of sin and put words in God’s mouth. The day may come when God will command someone to pray for recent-creationists and all others who make pronouncements on how God must do His work of creating.
Now for the key issue in this: what does the Bible say about the relationship of death to sin?
God looked at His creation, and said many times that it was good, except when He saw Adam alone. Is suffering and death good? No. But it may be a part of God’s good plan.
We must be careful not to overestimate the suffering of wild animals at present or in the remote past. At present the world has been heavily influenced by mankind’s destructive activity and example, and it is very understandable that such a world can be said to groan awaiting a restoration to a better condition. Despite all this, animals mostly appear quite contented, in fact having fun. Death is usually swift, and they do not seem to live constantly worrying about it.
What could possibly be better? Must it involve no physical death of animals? What conceivable ecological system could that be? Could there have been such a system before the Fall? How long could it have persisted if they had not sinned? If there was no death before Adam, and all animals were herbivorous, then when and how did carnivorous animals acquire their claws, teeth, speed, poison, digestive system, etc? When did their prey acquire various protective coloring and abilities? Were animals before the Fall not reproducing, or would God have stopped them when the population reached a suitable limit? The simple answer to all such questions is that we don’t know, because the Bible does not tell us such “what if”s, and we do not need to know. We need to understand what is, not what might have been. And we can only partially understand what is, so what use is it to speculate on the irrelevant might have been?
Recent-creationists themselves admit inability to answer such questions. Even in the hands of its friends this viewpoint dies the death of a thousand qualifications: plants that are eaten do not die, insects do not count, nor do other “lower animals” (left undefined). Of course, our inability to imagine a deathless environment does not make it impossible.
One final question is, if there was no death in Eden, then how did Adam and Eve even have a word for it in their vocabulary, which God used in warning them beforehand of the consequences of eating the forbidden fruit?
The “peaceable kingdom” prophecies of a future state on earth are not necessarily to be equated with the original state in Eden. That comes dangerously close to the Hindu-Buddhist concept of cyclical time. Eden was not heaven. There is no doubt some connection, but not total equivalence. In Eden Adam and Eve were capable of falling, and did. In heaven we will be eternally secure. Jesus refers to the “renewal of all things” at the end of the world (Mt. 19:28), which certainly implies some connection between the beginning and the end, but we must be cautious about interpreting more details into this than the Bible clearly defines, and thus adding to God’s word.
Other passages must be noted in connection with this. Isa. 35:9 and the context refer to a future time in Zion when there will be no lion, unclean people, or fools. This does not talk about tame, herbivorous lions, but only says they are excluded, implying that they do exist elsewhere and are still dangerous. Perhaps this is not the same as the peaceable kingdom, perhaps it is. Or perhaps the peaceable kingdom does not include the whole earth. A lion would need a redesigned stomach to be able to digest straw as in Isa. 11:7, or else redesigned straw. Like all prophecy, this leaves much unstated, and the fulfillment will certainly bring many surprises. We cannot claim to understand it precisely now, nor draw detailed deductions about the future or the past.
But what do all the passages mean that say death came by Adam’s sin? This is a big question that we will not finish briefly here. The interpretation of these passages is complex, even entirely apart from any consideration of its implications about the Garden of Eden. They must be talking about several different aspects of death.
There are at least two kinds of death, spiritual and physical. And death must have different levels of meaning for animals with different levels of intelligence and consciousness. God told Adam and Eve “In the day you eat from it you shall surely die.” (Gen. 2:17) But they lived more than 900 years, so either day or die has other meanings. Probably they died spiritually immediately, and it took longer for the effects to work out in their bodies. All of us ever since have been born spiritually dead, in need of life (Eph. 2:1-10), and destined to die physically. It took Christ’s physical death and resurrection to provide salvation from the penalty of our sins. So far there is nothing here on which there is controversy among Bible-believing Christians. But from here on we venture into uncertainty, and that provides room for differences of opinion.
Romans 5:18 says Christ brings life; obviously this does not mean physical life, which we already possess, so why interpret 17 as meaning that Adam brought physical death? If Adam caused us to die like a dog, then can we (facetiously) ask if Jesus makes us live a dog’s life? Verse 21 says Jesus brings “eternal life,” so it would be consistent to say Adam brought eternal death. But the only sound conclusion from such arguments is to admit they are superficial, admittedly facetious, and do not face the full implications of this passage and others. A half-truth is the most dangerous type of error.
The fact that physical and spiritual death was a result of sin does not mean Adam and Eve were originally incapable of physical death, only that they could be preserved from it as long as they remained in communion with God. Immortality seems somehow associated with the tree of life, but this is left unexplained (Gen. 3:22). If they were initially incapable of dying, why was there a tree of life? We do not know what God would have done with that tree, if Adam and Eve had faithfully obeyed His plan. It obviously was part of His plan for them in their unfallen state, because that was the reason for immediately banishing them from the Garden when they fell into sin (Gen. 3:22-24). If the tree would make them immortal, then they were not initially immortal. This was perhaps comparable to being secure from drowning as long as you stay in the boat. Adam and Eve jumped off the boat, and their physical death was a direct result of their sin. So is ours. All this is certainly part, but not all, of the meaning of the passages on death and sin.
The passages linking Adam and death clearly include his and our physical death, but what are we to make of Jesus’ comment in John 11:25, 26? “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” Obviously “die” has two different meanings here.
Thus we can conclude that the connection of Adam’s sin to our death includes both physical death and other aspects. Much of the debate on this subject seems to revolve around denying one or the other of these points, which only indicates and multiplies confusion. They are not mutually exclusive.
However we interpret all these passages, their relevance to animals’ death can only be seen between the lines. Rom. 5:12 says “death came to all men.” The passages compare and contrast Adam and Christ, Adam bringing death and Christ bringing life and resurrection. If Adam’s sin brought death to animals as well, does that mean Christ will bring resurrection to animals?
Recent-creationists often refer to Rom. 8:19-22 which says “creation groans and suffers” and “will be set free,” but we cannot be dogmatic about the precise implications of this. The context does refer to death, but also to decay, frustration, redemption and glory.
I do not claim to have precise answers to all the questions raised in connection with death, Eden, and sin. The point is that nobody else does either. The Biblical basis cannot bear the weight of all the far-reaching and detailed conclusions recent-creationists have built on it.
The Flood of Noah, Flood geology, and the vapor canopyThis is another large topic. Does the Biblical Flood account necessarily describe a global catastrophe which would certainly have totally rearranged the surface of the earth, therefore the rock layers do not represent long ages, therefore we must accept recent creation of the earth and the universe? Let’s go through all that slowly, a step at a time.
First, to settle one little score: To think otherwise does not constitute denial that it was a historical event, nor denial of all God’s past and future judgments. Disbelief in Flood geology does not equal disbelief in the Flood. Let’s stick to the subject. He who slings mud loses ground.
I do not believe the story is clear about whether the Flood was global, and I will not try to prove a case either way. There are interesting clues pointing both pro and con. It clearly was no ordinary local flood in both extent and duration.
Neither Noah nor Moses necessarily had a clear concept of the planet as we now do. The term used, Hebrew “erets,” is used elsewhere in reference to the known world, or nations, or even smaller areas: Gen. 41:56; Ex. 10:5, 15; Deut. 28:10; Josh. 4:24; Jud. 6:37 (the ground beside Gideon’s fleece!); I Sam. 17:46; 30:16 (an army camp).
The account definitely means the Flood destroyed the entire human race and probably all domestic animals, but they had not necessarily covered the entire planet. Genesis emphasizes the high rate of violence before the Flood, and the need for capital punishment as a deterrent for murder after the Flood, so the pre-Flood population may not have been large or widespread. After the Flood, they persisted in remaining close together until God forcibly intervened to disperse them from their tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1-9).
On the other hand, the water covered “all the high hills under heaven”; this is a more convincing argument for global extent. Even if this only refers to the part of the world they knew, water won’t pile up in one place very high very long. Another point is that God did not simply instruct Noah to migrate. This seems to imply that there was no place of safety which Noah could reach by land within 120 years, or even that birds could reach. This seems to rule out suggestions that the Flood was just a local one, or that it refers to the sudden filling of the Black Sea basin at the end of the last Ice Age about 6000 BC, or even of the Mediterranean about 1,000,000 years ago.
On still another hand, we may not totally understand God’s purposes. Perhaps it would have been possible to migrate far enough away, but God kept him there preaching and building a ridiculous Ark to give people another 120 years in which to repent.
But the global-Flood interpretation raises some interesting problems too. It seems amazing that he landed so near where he started from, after presumably drifting far and wide for a year; perhaps this was providential. Flood geology portrays the earth’s surface as totally rearranged to a depth of several miles, producing most of the present rock layers, which would virtually obliterate pre-Flood geographical features. Yet Moses, writing after the Flood, refers to the pre-Flood Garden of Eden as containing four rivers known to his readers, and running through regions known to them, apparently (but arguably) not just regions named with pre-Flood names (Gen. 2:10-14).
What is the meaning of Gen. 7:20, “And the water prevailed fifteen cubits higher, and the mountains were covered.”? Why would God reveal to Noah, or Moses, that the water was just a few feet above the highest peak onthe whole earth? How could Noah possibly have measured this, or cared, other than avoiding wrecking the Ark? But it was a drifting barge, not a powered ship, so knowing this would have been of little use. Is it possible that the account does not mean the water was over the peaks for the entire 150 days (7:24)? Could it mean a wave that crested that high? A few meters of water at a given spot would be hazardous to the residents’ health even if only for a few minutes. It doesn’t take a year to drown. Perhaps water was slowly sloshing around, covering different places at different times, not covering the entire world simultaneously, but the only place of safety was in a boat. I do not have answers to these questions. Once again, there must be some fascinating home videos to watch in heaven.
8:5 says the tops of the mountains became visible, but 6-13 says Noah could not even see outside to know whether the land had dried off sufficiently for them to disembark. Perhaps the mountains became visible not because the water uncovered them but because clouds and fog cleared.
8:4 says the Ark came to rest on (NIV) the “mountains of Ararat,” not necessarily a peak. In fact, it would be almost miraculous to drift onto a submerged or just-emerged peak. Water flow would diverge around it, carrying a drifting Ark off into the deep ocean basins for years while the occupants helplessly starved or died of thirst. It actually was a minor miracle that the Ark would even get grounded on a foothill slope. Thus the many reports and searches for the Ark near the top of Mt. Ararat in Turkey are likely a wild goose chase. There is little reason to think it could or should be there.
Once again, we have a fascinating subject on which no one has all the answers.
On to the vapor canopy. This is a nebulous concept whose Biblical basis is almost entirely between the lines. In fairness, it should be noted that many recent-creationists have abandoned the vapor canopy concept. But many leaders still are committed to it, and it remains in widely circulated literature.
The entire Biblical basis of the canopy theory is questionable. It is highly dubious to find in the phrase in Gen. 1:7, “the waters above the firmament,” a detailed description of the structure of the upper atmosphere. It is much more simply interpreted as referring to clouds, Prov. 8:28.
Nowhere does the Bible state that the world had a mild climate everywhere; that statement is found between the lines somewhere, in the eye of the beholder. Gen. 2:5, 6 does not necessarily mean it never rained anywhere in the earth, or even in Eden. Hebrew does not have a clear system of verb tenses, so this is one of many passages where we cannot precisely determine relative times. Surely the oceans were absorbing sunlight, and at least part of this heat went into evaporation; what goes up must come down somewhere. If there was no rain, then how could there be rivers? Attempted explanations of this involve complex underground passageways and other assumptions which stretch the imagination and known physical principles. And how would people have a word for rain, which God could use to tell Noah what to get ready for?
9:12-16 does not say that the rainbow had never been seen before, only that God gave it a new significance. Nearly all the ceremonies and symbols of the Old Testament were in existence before God adopted them for use in worship: animal sacrifices, circumcision, clothing, etc.
It is also significant that in recent-creationists’ attempts to explain such a canopy they have not yet produced a scientific model that holds water. More about this in the following section.
This finally completes the discussion of the Biblical basis claimed for recent creation. I leave dinosaurs to be discussed under scientific topics.
This basis proves under examination to be riddled with unanswered questions and indefensible assumptions; it is neither the simple nor the obvious meaning of the text, therefore arguably not the literal interpretation, and perhaps not even the traditional one nor the authors’ meaning, let alone God’s. Recent creation cannot therefore be considered to be proven false, but the Bible is certainly open to other interpretations, and we can legitimately consider other options before choosing one. This primarily means we are permitted to look to scientific considerations for further guidance in determining what God was thinking when Moses and others wrote these texts. This might even lead us to an interpretation we had never noticed before, though of course it does not mean accepting all currently popular theories, nor anti-supernatural biases.
B Evaluation of the purported scientific evidence for recent creationThe recent-creationist community often charges the general scientific community with distorting and suppressing information, and refers to the bias of “secular science.” This certainly does occur, both in the scientific community and in everyday life. There are countless examples of our selective awareness of the facts. The human heart is deceitful and wicked (Jer. 17:9) and specifically rejects truth related to our own creation and God’s rightful honor and authority (Rom. 1:18-21). See ch. 3, V. However, this principle is a two-edged sword, and we Christians are not immune from bias ourselves. We are anxious to see those unbelieving scientists get refuted, but we must be careful not to have “itching ears” that too readily accept anything that seems to be what we want to hear (II Tim. 4:3). It is all too easy to get into a particular mindset, and very hard to get out of it. Our deceitful hearts will gladly be baptized into the service of some honorable cause that provides an opportunity for feeling superior to others, such as the Pharisees’ emphasis on God’s law, truth and honor in Jesus’ time. So we must scrutinize all the evidence presented by everyone in regard to the age of the universe, and how it is analyzed. That includes recent-creationists.
The following discussion responds to the points listed in sec. I, B.
Is the assumption of “dark matter” or “missing matter” in galaxies and galaxy clusters only a cover-up for the fact that galaxy clusters are in fact breaking up and could not exist for the purported 15-billion-year age of the universe? This issue needs a little background. There are actually several types of “missing matter.” One is in the universe as a whole. Theorists for various reasons would like to believe the universe’s average density is just exactly right to make its expansion slow down but never quite stop and reverse. The density of observable matter seems to refuse to exceed about one-tenth of that quantity, so the other nine-tenths is “missing.” Then there are the galaxy clusters that brought up our current discussion. Finally, galaxies themselves seem to have a lot of invisible matter, especially in the outer regions, based on the motions of stars in those regions.
Early (mid-20th century) mass estimates considered only luminous matter, in other words stars. That fell far short of the quantity required to explain the observed motions of galaxies and stars. But of course not all matter is luminous; that requires a fairly high temperature and density. We live on the surface of a sizeable chunk of non-luminous matter, and we ourselves are smaller chunks. Of course, we are luminous, just not in the visible wavelength range. At our low temperature, we shine in the far infrared. With the dawning of the space age and advances in detector technology, it became possible to observe the universe at these wavelengths, and sure enough far more matter became visible than that producing visible light. The advent of x-ray observations added more observations of matter at the other extreme, temperatures and energies so high that their radiation is mostly in that range. But all this still falls short of the required total. So are astronomers refusing to face the clear meaning of the facts, in clinging to the belief that there is more matter in some form?
There can easily be still more, in forms that do not emit an observable amount of radiation. It could be in objects in the size range between planets and stars; how many such objects might there be floating around the universe, and how could we know? We can’t go into all the details here, but several large research projects were carried out in the first half of the 90s, looking for exactly such objects, using the phenomenon of gravitational lensing to detect the effect of such objects on the light of stars beyond them. It was an impressive plan, using a computer to analyze thousands of pictures of the millions of stars in the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. Some lensing instances were observed, as well as a windfall of data on previously unnoticed variable stars. But the number of small objects fell far short of the number required for them to supply the missing mass.
Gravitational lensing occurs in other cases, on larger scales. In the mid 80s the steady progress of instrumentation produced the first observations of curious huge, thin, precise arcs of light around the edges of galaxy clusters. It took a couple of years to pin down the explanation; they are not a new type of object, but mirages, the stretched and distorted images of small bright objects, galaxies and quasars, far beyond the cluster. Hundreds of such arcs are now known, dozens of them visible in and around some clusters. Analysis of them determines the mass required to produce such bending of light rays, and the answer is in very good agreement with the mass required to explain the observed motions of the galaxies in the clusters. So this is an independent confirmation that that mass really is there. The only alternative explanation is to say that God’s creation of apparent age even went to the extent of creating light rays looking as if they had bent around galaxy clusters which those rays never actually passed by, and also those light rays were bent by amounts representing mass that does not really exist.
As long as we are talking about missing mass, we cannot omit its application to individual galaxies. Here recent-creationists seem to have passed up an opportunity, because if missing mass is a cover-up in galaxy clusters, why not in galaxies themselves? Why not say that the galaxies are actually flying apart, on an even shorter time scale than the clusters?
There is hope of a solution of the missing-mass problem for the universe as a whole. Several types of evidence indicate that there is actually a repulsive force in the universe, the return of Einstein’s cosmological constant, which counteracts gravity and supplies an energy density which also plays the role of missing mass. Also, it has become possible to observe molecular hydrogen directly, and there turns out to be much more than previously estimated. This is the status at the moment of writing this, late 2000. Watch for further developments.
About spiral galaxy arms, there are several possible explanations of their structure. For one thing, they are not necessarily fixed structures that would wind up with time as the inner parts rotate faster than the outer parts. They may instead be a wave disturbance passing through the matter of the galaxy. They may be a region of concentration of formation of a few bright stars, which dominate the brightness of the entire galaxy, and the density distribution is much more nearly uniform than the brightness distribution. Instrumentation is just now becoming adequate to make such detailed studies of the motions in other galaxies, so in a few years this question should be answered.
But even before that answer is in, it is certain that spiral arms are at least partly a wave structure, and it is suspected that they are not a long-lasting feature after all. Most spiral arms are observed to be in galaxies that give other evidences of recent (less than 1,000,000,000 years) disturbance by other nearby galaxies, just as our own spiral-armed Milky Way is closely surrounded and perturbed by several smaller galaxies. So recent-creationists probably are half right. Spiral arms could not exist for billions of years, but that does not prove the universe cannot be that old. In other words, to carry this logic to its extreme, the waves on the ocean could be used as proof that the universe is no more than a few hours old, because the interaction of wind with waves is not well understood and therefore must be rejected as the cause of waves.
Another evidence of the flimsiness of this argument is the fact that many flat-disk galaxies, which must be classified as spiral-type, have very tightly wound spiral arms or none at all, showing only a fairly uniform disk. By the recent-creationists’ own logic, this should be evidence that the universe is in fact at least many hundred million years old, for spiral arms to progress to such a state. So this is an example of selective awareness or presentation of the facts by recent-creationists.
As for star clusters dispersing, I cannot locate where I saw this claim. It is not frequently mentioned by recent-creationists, and perhaps the instances I saw indicated confusion about the previous two subjects. I have never heard of any such star clusters in my reading of astronomical literature.
On to supernova remnants. They are expanding at a rate on the order of a thousand kilometers a second. M1, the remnant of the 1054 supernova, is already several light-years across. At this rate, they disperse very rapidly, which means within a few tens of thousands of years at most. At least they would fade from visibility in visible light. Recent-creationists claim that they should remain conspicuous for radio telescopes. I have not pursued this claim down to its details. But I do have several comments. One is that the universe, especially the neighborhood of large stars that become supernovae, is a busy, crowded place. Beyond a few light years at most, there are bound to be a lot of other clouds and stars which will strongly affect the expanding debris. There is simply not enough empty room for it to go on expanding in undisturbed isolation. Another comment, related to this, is that there are some observed structures, sometimes called super-bubbles, that are several thousand light years in diameter. Their explanation is still uncertain. The currently preferred one is that they are the accumulated effect of a whole spurt of supernovae during a few thousand years in a relatively small area. Another possibility is that there are explosions even far larger than supernovae, which are still not well understood. Stand by for further developments. Be that as it may, the purported lack of, say, million-year-old supernova remnants is not at all a closed case. Furthermore, it would be strangely inconsistent if God created a universe in which there are no “old” supernova remnants with apparent age, but did create the universe filled with so many other examples of apparent age in this range and far older.
It should also be noted that this argument by recent-creationists implies the assumption that we are seeing all these supernova remnants virtually instantly, at distances up to several hundred thousand light years. The light-travel-time factor is totally ignored. This is discussed in sec. C.
If recent-creationists really understood supernovae, they would not draw attention to them. A supernova is the explosion of a large star, which is also a short-lived star. It does not last long enough to travel far away from its place of formation. All large stars, and supernovae, are observed to be in the neighborhood of dense nebulae capable of forming stars. If all the stars were in fact created fully formed and functioning, and God wanted to give us proof that that is what He did, then He could create large stars and even expanding supernova remnants in isolated locations far from any other large stars and dense nebulae. We of course cannot assert that that is what He must do. But it is significant that He passed up that opportunity to display His method and power, if recent creation is in fact true.
Star formation is discussed further in sec. C.
The shrinking Sun story created a great stir in the recent-creationist world in the 80s. It was based on observations of the Sun carried out over a century or more, which seemed to show a slight shrinkage, which if projected over a time span of billions of years would have the Sun initially as large as the Earth’s orbit. For now it is sufficient to note that those observations were right on the edge of the observational uncertainty of the measurements made a century ago. And that is precisely how the astronomical community considered them; they were not confirmed by any other observations, such as the very precise observations of the edge of the Sun during total eclipses. It was only recent-creationists who thought this carried any great significance, which was being covered up by the secular community. Attaching such significance to this is an instance of the error of unjustified extrapolation and uniformitarianism, an error which recent-creationists are experts at pointing out when evolutionists commit it. Even if it were true that the Sun shrunk noticeably in the past one hundred years, that does not mean it has been going on at a constant rate for millions of years. It could be some previously unknown small oscillation on a period of a few centuries. This has mostly been dropped from newer recent-creation presentations, but it lives on in older materials, and continues to be propagated from those materials by the uninformed.
The solar-neutrino shortage has stood as one of astrophysics’ puzzles since the early 70s, but may be near a solution. Newer and larger neutrino detectors, able to observe far more and different kinds of neutrinos than the early one, confirm the deficiency. But in 1998 an experiment also detected traces of a mass in the neutrino, which according to theory would mean that the three types of neutrinos can change from one to another. Thus by the time they reach the Earth, the initial number of neutrinos in their original type would be reduced to, guess what, one-third! This remains to be verified, but this paragraph is probably the most dated one in this book. By the time it passes through the publication process and reaches circulation, this problem will either be resolved or confirmed to be even more puzzling than ever. Whatever the outcome, it is not a crucial evidence either way on the age of the universe, hardly sufficient to discredit everything else that is relevant and more certain.
Is the assumed existence of the Kuyper Belt and Oort Cloud only a cover-up for the clear implication of the existence of short-lived comets? It could be. Once again, this issue does not stand in isolation; there are the many clear evidences for an age at least several digits beyond ten thousand years. This is an argument based on lack of information; small objects at those distances are at present impossible to observe. In the 90s it has become possible to detect some smaller objects in the vicinity of Pluto and slightly beyond; at present (2000) several dozen are known and this number can be expected to continue rising rapidly for a long time. And it is very reasonable to assume that the objects detected are the largest in a huge number of such objects. Pluto is only the king of the Kuyper Belt.
Some recent-creation books go into great technical detail to explain why meteoroids, in the size range of a fraction of a millimeter, are gradually falling toward the Sun due to their interaction with sunlight, the Poynting-Robertson effect. This is common knowledge among scientists. But recent-creationists fail to give more than passing mention to what is known of the source of these particles, which is of course the crux of any consideration of whether this tells us something about the age of the solar system. These particles come from two primary sources. One is comets. The other is ongoing collisions in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Infrared satellite observations have confirmed the existence of streams of dust in the asteroid belt. Unlike the Kuyper Belt and Oort Cloud, the existence of the asteroids is known by direct observation. Thus there is no proven problem in accounting for the continuing present of meteors in the inner solar system. Recent-creationists must produce a detailed study of the sources and prove them inadequate if they want to claim this as an evidence for recent-creation.
The “moon-dust problem” continues to receive strong emphasis in some creationists’ presentations and literature, though others have dropped it. Its brief listing in my summary in sec. I does not do justice to the prominence it receives in the creationist movement. It received great attention in the early days of the moon landing program, when the space program planners were worried that they might find the surface of the Moon covered with a thick layer of dust into which the landing spacecraft and astronauts would vanish without a trace. So recent-creationists can cite professional scientists who published articles about this in professional journals; but notice the date of those articles, the latest being in the early 60s. No one but recent-creationists has mentioned it again since. Recent-creationists who have dropped this issue say they drop it because early estimates of the influx of meteor dust turned out to be far too high, and the actual rate is low enough that this is inconclusive as an evidence against several billion years. But this still fails to grasp the really serious blunder in this argument.
That blunder was realized in the mid-60s by professional scientists, which is why it was never mentioned again, and they were embarrassed by their earlier articles on the subject. Meteors strike the Earth and Moon at speeds of several tens of kilometers per second, many times the speed of an artillery shell. Such objects, from tiny specks up to many kilograms, are burned up by friction high in the Earth’s atmosphere, but on the airless Moon they directly strike the solid surface. Both from experiments with newly-developed high-velocity guns, and from simple calculation, scientists in the 60s realized that particles colliding with a solid surface at such speeds are totally vaporized; their kinetic energy is more than enough to accomplish this. This is so obvious that it was embarrassing they had not realized it earlier. An object that almost instantly becomes high-temperature and high-pressure gas is ordinarily called a bomb, and its explosion produces a crater typically ten times as large in diameter as the object that produced it. It is not merely analogous to a bullet hole, and it is futile to dig underneath the hole in hopes of finding the original object. This realization finally ended the centuries-long debate over whether the Moon’s craters, and also the Barringer Crater in Arizona, are volcanic or impact-produced.
Thus it is no wonder that the dust has not piled up on the Moon’s surface; it all vaporized on impact. What we should expect therefore is a surface covered to a depth of many tens of meters with a layer of shocked and compressed rubble mixed and plowed by impacts of all sizes. This is exactly what there is. The samples the astronauts returned are classified as breccias, which means compressed rubble.
If recent-creationists really understood this at all, they would avoid mentioning the Moon. Notice the shape of the hills in the background in the pictures of the astronauts walking on the Moon; they are gentle rounded shapes. There is no process that produces new mountains in that condition, except perhaps a shield volcano, which the Moon’s mountains certainly are not; fault-block motion or a fresh crater rim are jagged. The mountains have become rounded because the original jagged contours have been sand-blasted off through eons of time by the impacts of countless particles of all sizes. So recent-creationists choke on half an inch of dust, and swallow many meters of rubble, craters over 100 km in diameter, and whole rounded-off mountains. It is a classic example of not seeing the forest for the trees.
Craters occur not only on the Moon; they are observed on every solid surface of planets and satellites in the solar system, except a few which show clear evidence of rapid replacement, such as Jupiter’s moon Io. On some parts of some surfaces, including the Moon’s, the surface consists entirely of craters on top of craters. There is no reason why objects would have particularly targeted these regions, so the only reasonable conclusion is that these are the oldest remaining surfaces, and that every spot on every surface was impacted many times in its early history. On many of the planets other processes have also left their mark, producing a complex surface of overlapping and interleaving craters in all conditions from jagged-fresh to smooth-old, fault lines, and cracks, telling a story that cannot be compressed within less than many many millions of years. And on those objects there is no evidence of a single global hydrological Flood which might compress all that story into a brief time period. Mars shows evidence of large regional floods, but Mercury and the Moon are airless and waterless and could not have ever been otherwise.
The Earth is especially important to us. It now recognized to have over 100 impact craters of various ages, and sizes up to several hundred kilometers. The Earth’s surface is subject to erosional processes that rapidly erase and/or cover up craters with time, so these are just the last few most recent ones. The formation of each one of the larger craters was certainly a global catastrophe. Most of these craters are so nearly obliterated that they were not recognized until large-area satellite photos became available.
A few asteroids, in orbits between Mars and Jupiter, have been observed by passing spacecraft, and they too have cratered surfaces, and turn out to be low-density porous flying rock piles, not solid chunks. So they too bear testimony to a long and violent history at least several digits longer than 10,000 yr.
How can all these craters throughout the solar system be explained in the recent-creation model? When in the six 24-hour days of creation, or the Flood, were these craters formed, including the ones on the Earth? If the Moon and planets did not even exist until the fourth day, then it has to be then or after. A vast sequence of violent events must be accommodated sometime between then and now. If the other planets were all being blasted, the Earth could hardly escape, except by miraculous protection. The Earth was already covered with plants on the third day, and was inhabited by animals on the fifth day; it would not be habitable during a heavy episode of bombardment, or for quite a while (at least years, probably centuries) afterwards. The only other possible time for all these impacts is during or soon after the Flood, and in fact Flood geology requires that, since it teaches that the present surface of the Earth, which contains numerous craters, did not exist before the Flood. But that would make the Earth uninhabitable at the time these craters formed, with frequent mile-high tidal waves and global climate catastrophes. Perhaps the reason Noah could not see the mountains for so long was because the impacts produced dust clouds that made the world dark! And perhaps the biggest miracle of all is that he and the rest of the inhabitants of the Ark were not directly hit by any of the impacts, and did not freeze to death during the following dark-induced “winter.”
But any attempt to compress this process of impacting into a time as short as the Flood year runs into impossible difficulties. The solar system at present is delightfully clean and calm, yet impacts still are inevitable occasionally. The average lifetime of small objects in the vicinity of the Earth is on the order of many millions ofyears. The final stages of cleaning up the solar system are still unfinished and progressing very slowly, and new small objects are still being produced by collisions in the asteroid belt.. A glance at the night sky shows that the planets are very tiny targets in the celestial shooting gallery, and their progress in removing small stray objects is like scrubbing the Great Lakes with a toothbrush. Projecting this condition backward in time points to a period of intense bombardment that slowed down about four billion years ago. Heavy bombardment by objects orbiting the Sun must have continued on for at least several hundred million years, the final stage of the formation of the planets.
The only way that recent-creationists can possibly shorten this time-period to fit into their framework is to postulate that a tremendously dense cloud of objects existed throughout the solar system for a very brief period of time, at most a year or two, beginning at the beginning of the Flood. This model has numerous fatal flaws, which I introduce briefly.
One serious question is not quite fatal. As already mentioned, protecting Noah and the Ark during and after such a bombardment would require truly miraculous intervention.
The next question is the source of such a cloud of objects. It must be either inside or outside the solar system. If it is within the solar system, it would be either an explosion or collision of one or more tremendously massive planets. There is no known or proposed mechanism for such an explosion. I emphasize tremendously massive, because the planets and satellites are mere specks in the vastness of interplanetary space, so only an infinitesimal fraction of flying debris would strike one of them in the short time of a year or two. Yet they all indicate having been totally plastered with impacts, probably many times over.
If the objects came from outside the solar system, again there is no known or proposed source. Such a cloud of objects has never been observed, nor can any explanation be given of how one would be formed, other than the always-ready ace-in-the-hole of miraculous intervention.
The next, overlapping, question is the disposal of such a cloud. Where did they all go within a few short months? They must have all been moving at a high enough speed to escape from the solar system, not remain in orbits within it. This virtually eliminates the model of an exploding or colliding planet, which would produce fragments moving in all directions at a wide range of speeds. Virtually all of it would be at speeds low enough to remain in orbit around the Sun, so after the passage of a mere few thousand years it should almost all still be here, and the bombardment still continuing ferociously. Obviously, and fortunately, it is not.
The alternative is an extremely dense cloud passing through the solar system from outside. This would enter from one direction and continue onward out of the solar system. But even in this case we should expect a small fraction of the objects to be deflected by close flybys to the planets, especially Jupiter, and enter closed orbits remaining within the solar system. Nearly all of those objects would still be around a few thousand years later, but we see no such population of objects in the solar system.
Thus there seems to be no feasible scenario of a brief, recent episode of saturation bombing throughout the solar system. Even if the passing cloud theory were conceivable, it is inconsistent for recent-creationists to believein such an imagined unexplained cloud, and at the same be so skeptical about the existence of the highly plausible Oort Cloud and Kuyper Belt.
Most recent-creationists are blissfully unaware of this problem. Even a recent-creationist book devoted entirely to the origin of the Moon failed to mention the origin of craters at all, except one passing reference to the fact that they exist. One article raising this question in CRSQ received exactly zero response at the time (by William S. Parks, vol. 26 pp 144-6, March 1990). There have been a few articles in the late 90s mentioning the subject of craters and their origin, giving a few unsuccessful guesses on the subject and still not acknowledging what a serious problem this is for them. But it is an extremely serious, possibly fatal one.
It takes only one real contradiction to overthrow a theory. Craters do exist. If they could not possibly be reconciled with a young Earth, then the Earth is not young. Recent-creationists can only cling to the fact that is has not been reconciled yet. How long can they cling?
One of the best attempts so far is “Impact Events Within the Young-Earth Flood Model” by Carl R. Froede Jr. and Don B. DeYoung, CRSQ vol. 33, pp. 23-34. The references list is two pages long, which represents an impressive amount of research in the literature. But even this article can do no better than propose the exploding-asteroid model, and admit the cause of the explosion is unknown. And even these authors, with such a high degree of competence, don’t seem aware that the disposal of the debris is a problem; they happily assume it was all swept up within months and is now vanished without a trace. And they even still consider the possibility that at least some of the craters elsewhere in the solar system were created. If that is really an option, then there is nothing left to discuss. There are also at least two articles by W. R. Spencer in the proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Creationism, 1998. He also places the bombardment during the Flood.
The argument about slumping Moon mountains has not been widely circulated, so we need not devote much attention to it here. It is sufficient to note that if rocks on the Moon should flow perceptibly in its one-sixth gravity, then sheer cliff faces on the Earth should be oozing quite perceptibly. But Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, and countless other scenic wonders show no such behavior.
The argument based on the Moon’s recession is also often emphasized by recent-creationists. The Moon is currently receding from the Earth at about 4 centimeters per year, an estimate based on the observed rate of slowing of the Earth’s rotation, which is such that a day is about 0.001 sec longer every century. This slowing is caused by its tidal interaction with the Moon, so the angular momentum removed from the Earth’s rotation must be transferred to the Moon’s orbital motion, enlarging its orbit. This results in a figure of 4 cm/yr. This can be confirmed by laser ranging to the reflectors left by the astronauts. That ranging is accurate to a few cm., but the Moon’s distance from the Earth varies in a very complex way over a range of nearly 40,000 km, so it requires truly heroic analysis to measure a 4 cm change.
The Moon’s present distance of 384,000 km, divided by 4 cm/year, gives a time of about 10,000,000,000 years, which no one considers too short. The problem is that this speed has not been constant, but would be much faster when the Earth and Moon were closer together. Various estimates of this effect bring the time required to reach the Moon’s present distance, assuming it started out very near the Earth, somewhat below the usual estimate of the age of the Earth, 5,000,000,000 years. This seems to be a conflict.
However, this is not necessarily a serious problem. It would be a problem if the answer were, say, five or six digits, or even seven, instead of nearly ten. It would have to differ from the Earth’s estimated age by at least a factor of 10 to be a serious problem. But in fact the time estimated from the Moon’s recession is at least half of the estimated age of the Earth, and a factor of two is pretty close in something with such large uncertainties. The tidal interaction between the Earth and the Moon is very complex, consisting mostly of the ocean’s tidal motions and the interaction of the tides with the continental coastlines. The present distribution of continents on the Earth is apparently more complex than it has been through most of the Earth’s history. It seems that at earlier times the continents were mostly combined into one large mass, leaving the rest of the globe one large ocean. Thus the tidal friction effect could have been considerably smaller than it is now, and the time required for the Moon to recede to its present distance becomes acceptably close to 5,000,000,000 years. This is no fatal flaw in the standard theory of the origin of the solar system.
An IBRI tape describes fossil corals, dated to be several hundred million years old, in which annual, monthly, and daily growth cycles are all visible, and it indicates more months and days per year than at present. There is no reason to think the length of the year has changed, so this means the month and day were shorter, and by an amount accurately consistent with the transfer of angular momentum from the Earth to the Moon, and also with the 8-digit geological age estimated for these fossils. It is difficult to imagine a recent-creationist alternative explanation of these facts.
The amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere is determined by its rates of both production and removal. Production is from cosmic rays producing reactions in nitrogen-14 nuclei in the upper atmosphere. Removal is by being removed from the atmosphere into the ocean or land, or radioactive decay converting it back to nitrogen-14. Decay is a process determined by the principles of nuclear physics, with a half-life a little over 5000 years. With such a short half-life, this is not one of the dating methods relevant to the age of the Earth. It is an observed fact that at present the rate of production is greater than the rate of decay, so the amount is increasing. The question is why. Recent-creationists assume that this means that there has been a major disruption which reduced the carbon inventory of the atmosphere. They propose both creation and the Flood as such disruptions.
But there is at least one other very good possibility,
which is that the rate of production is variable. Once again the recent-creationists
are extrapolating far beyond the available data, or in other words being
too uniformitarian, a fault which they frequently criticize in evolutionists.
It is not known where cosmic rays come from, though in recent years a consensus
is growing that they are produced by supernova explosions. This may or
may not be confirmed by further research. Be that as it may, the cosmic
ray intensity could very well vary considerably with time, even within
a few centuries. Observations have not been accurate enough long enough
yet to answer this question.
There is perhaps an experimental test of the recent-creationists’ proposal. Even assuming the Earth was initially created with no carbon-14, some should have accumulated by 1600 years later, the minimum time from creation to the Flood. If most of the Earth’s carbonate rocks, limestone and others, were formed at that time, and that was at most about 5,000 years ago, then they should still contain at least a trace of carbon-14. If, as is usually assumed, they formed many millions of years ago, then they would not. I am not aware of any recent-creationist consideration of this possibility, or attempts to check it out. Of course, they can always say that for various reasons the carbon-14 content of these rocks is imperceptible, and thus evade this falsification of their model.
The geomagnetic field (and the much larger magnetic fields of the four planets from Jupiter to Neptune) is also a favorite topic of recent-creationists. The argument is that since the Earth’s magnetic field is produced by a large circular current loop in the Earth’s liquid conducting core, this can be analyzed by the principles of electromagnetism. It is basically an inductance (L) and resistance (R), and a simple freshman physics problem is to determine the rate of decay of a current in an L-R circuit. Determining the L and R of the Earth’s core is not trivial, but it still is a good problem for a smart freshman. The result is that the current should decline by a half in a little over 1000 years. The measured strength of the field for past century or so indicates a slow decline at precisely this rate. This obviously cannot have been going on every 1000 years for the past 5,000,000,000 years, because that gives an utterly impossible figure for the original magnetic field.
This is true enough so far. The question is, once again, extrapolation; recent-creationists are again making unfounded uniformitarian assumptions. Is there nothing that can happen but dissipation and decline of the field? The usual explanation of the field is that the current in the Earth’s core is generated by a dynamo effect, similar to any electrical generator. The dynamo is driven by radioactive heat and the Earth’s rotation. Recent-creationists object that such a dynamo effect in the Earth’s core has never been proven true, or adequately explained in detail. This is true. However, it also is true that it has never been proven impossible. It violates no known physical principles. It is simply complex beyond the present capabilities of computers to calculate all that is happening. The core of the Earth is a rotating, gravitating, heated, conducting liquid. Its explanation is virtually the most complex problem imaginable in classical physics, using all that was known previous to the twentieth century. It is an electromagnetothermogravitohydrodynamic problem. No wonder it has not been solved yet. But beginning in about 1995, some computer modeling research has begun to produce results that at least resemble in principle the behavior of the Earth’s core, including generation and occasional reversal of the magnetic field. These models are still too simple to claim actual equivalence to the Earth’s core, but they are progress. Stand by for the results from the next generation of super-computers.
If we are going to consistently reject anything that is not yet fully explained, then we must refuse to believe that rain or lightning exist, or for that matter that tomorrow’s weather will occur. The atmosphere is complex beyond complete analysis, despite performing before our very eyes every day, and being observed and analyzed with all the ground-based, flying, and satellite technology and computational facilities the world’s scientists can produce and governments can buy. The same is true of the Earth’s core, except it is far less accessible for detailed observation.
Helium currently escapes from the top of the atmosphere into space considerably slower than it is observed to be entering the atmosphere from the surface of the Earth. The primary source is presumably radioactive decay of uranium and a few other heavy elements, producing alpha particles which are just helium nuclei flying around loose. The current helium abundance and rate of accumulation results in an estimated accumulation time of a few million years, much more than 10,000 but much less than 5,000,000,000.
Once again the recent-creationists’ error is uniformitarian extrapolation. The escape rate is controlled by the temperature in the outer reaches of the atmosphere. This at present ranges from about 500 to 1500 C, controlled by the degree of sunspot activity of the Sun, which produces high-energy radiation which is absorbed at those high altitudes. But the long-term limits of the activity of the Sun are not known; we have only been observing it scientifically for a few centuries. By the recent-creationists’ own estimates, a temperature of 2000 C or more would raise the escape rate sufficiently to balance the input rate. This does not seem to be hopeless beyond the presently observed range of variation. Furthermore, other factors may be significant as well. Supernovae produce not only visible light, but a blast of energy clear across the entire electromagnetic spectrum. A supernova within a few hundred light years would have significant effects clear down to the surface of the Earth, and one much further than that could drastically affect the tenuous upper atmosphere for at least several years. This should happen at least once every few million years. It at least erases the contradiction between this fact and a billion-year age of the Earth and its atmosphere. Furthermore, in the last few years satellites have discovered objects called gamma-ray bursters, that also significantly affect the outer atmosphere. They emit within a few seconds as much energy as a supernova does in many months. Their nature is not yet certain, but the best guess currently is that it is the merger of two neutron stars to form a black hole. It is not yet known how frequently these occur.
While we are discussing escape rates, the atmosphere consists of about 1% argon, which like helium is also still entering the atmosphere from the surface, presumably as the product of the decay of radioactive potassium. Argon is a much heavier gas, with no hope of escaping at any possible temperature of the upper atmosphere. If anything ever happens to the Earth that causes the argon to begin escaping, that will be the least of our problems! The observed rate of input would produce the observed composition in a few billion years, nicely in agreement with the usual estimate of the age of the Earth. Recent-creationists have noted this fact, and commented that it merits further research! This principle of escape rates will also briefly come up in connection with the vapor canopy theory.
Recent-creationists delight in mentioning examples of rapid formation of stalactites and stalagmites. This is true. But it does not necessarily prove that all stalactites in all caves formed that rapidly, nor does it prove recent creation or Flood geology. Observed stalactites formed in a few years are at most a foot or two long, and formed under very special circumstances. How does this transfer to a natural cave environment, and to stalactites a hundred times as long and with thousands of times the volume?
And now at long last we dive into the deep subject of Flood geology.
The first important comment is that this is not directly connected to recent creation. It amazes me how often someone begins a discussion on the age of the universe and very quickly starts talking about rocks. Many people seem to think that the only evidence about the age of the universe is found on the surface of the Earth. The stars and the rocks are two different subjects. Even if Flood geology turns out to be a correct model, that only proves there was a recent catastrophe on the surface of the Earth, not recent creation of the entire universe. And even how recent the catastrophe was is debatable.
There are six separate issues of age: the ages of the universe, of the Earth, of rocks in general, of life, of fossils and the rocks containing them, and of the human race. If evidence means anything, then each one of these is an upper limit for one or more of the next ones. Of course, the concept of apparent age denies that evidence is meaningful, so we can believe for instance that the Earth was created before the rest of the universe. In this way recent-creationists collapse the upper limits for the universe, Earth, life, and humans into one, or at most allow a few days between them, Flood geology places the fossils less than 2000 years later. Thus the age of fossils becomes equivalent to the age of the universe.
So, within these limitations, what does Flood geology tell us about the age of the present surface of the Earth?
Recent-creationist geologists can list an impressive number of facts that seem unaccountable by the standard geological interpretation. Most of these were listed in the summary of recent creation. As a layman in this subject, I can only conclude that the geological community has a lot more work to do, and this probably will produce some major revision of their current theories. The recent-creationists may serve a gadfly function in requiring them to take all the data into account. But I can’t help wondering if recent creation’s being associated with so many strange and mistaken notions has been more of a help or a hindrance to its intended positive influence on geologists.
On the other hand, this does not mean that recent creation is the correct answer. Their arguments are classic examples of selective presentation of details. They too fail to account for all the data. Somehow they overlook many facts which sound to me impossible to account for within a one-year Flood, or even a few centuries of settling down after a Flood. So I can only hope that the dialogue between recent-creationists and others goes on and someday develops a theory consistent with all the data.
Here are some facts which seem incompatible with Flood geology. Much of this is based on information in Dan Wonderly’s book (see bibliography). If only 1/10 of this book is valid, Flood geology is washed up. And it is unlikely that that little is valid. There may be errors, and valid responses to some of it, but it is difficult to imagine that it can be totally reconciled with the Flood geology scenario.
There are buried soil layers, paleosols, in the midst of the long sequences of layers attributed to the Flood. There is apparently some controversy over the identification of these layers, but the strongest statement I can find in recent-creationist comments is that if standard geology is correct it is surprising that there are so few such buried soils. But they seem unable to deny that there are at least a few. Even one soil layer in the middle of purported Flood layers is fatal to a one-year Flood explanation. Also, if it is acknowledged that most of the rock layers were formed in some sort of sudden catastrophic events, rather than in gradually rising and falling land and water levels, then soils would easily be mostly removed and dispersed, so that explains why there are not more buried soil layers. The Flood is not the only explanation for their scarcity.
Both buried fossil coral reefs and present-day coral reefs seem impossible to account for within a recent-creation time-scale and Flood geology. I have seen recent-creationist articles claiming that fossil coral reefs did not actually grow in place but were washed there during the Flood. This is an argument over details between experts on which I am not able to judge. But it seems it still would be a problem to grow that much coral in 1600 years before the Flood, and strange to account for its being gathered together in that way rather than scattered. Giving the recent-creationists the benefit of the doubt, this may be an inconclusive point.
There are many other evidences of long time periods in the midst of the layers. There are buried surface contours complete with erosion patterns and drainage systems of branching river channels. There are caves filled with material from layers above that layer. There are buried bird nests and footprints. There are harder objects enclosed in softer layers, and those objects show erosional conformity to the surface of the softer layer.
To account for some geological features, recent-creationist geologists resort to the concept of “sheet erosion,” water flowing rapidly over a large area and eroding off a layer leaving a flat surface. Is this possible? Is there any observed instance of this in the world or in the laboratory? Water flow is inherently unstable, amplifying small irregularities into large ones, which is why gullies and canyons form. If this concept of sheet erosion is necessary to reconcile recent creation with the geological facts, then recent creation may be in trouble.
Cyclic sediment series are particularly significant, with alternating layers of finer and coarser particles, and perhaps also different composition. There are examples that go up to several million such layers. The usual interpretation is that these represent annual surges of deposition on a lake floor. In reply, recent-creationists point to examples where such deposits are observed several times a year in some lakes. However, to produce several million layers in a year (the Flood) requires a layer every few seconds or less (a year is a little over 31,000,000 sec), and in fact this whole sequence is usually above and below many other layers that are also attributed to the Flood, so its time allotment must be even further compressed. Recent-creationists also point to examples at Mt. St. Helens, and in experiments, where material containing a mixture of sizes of particles is all deposited suddenly, and spontaneously sorts itself into alternating layers of finer and coarser material. This has hopes of eliminating the impossible time constraints, but I still would have to be convinced that such deposits match in every detail the geological examples.
Evaporite sequences are especially important, where the chemical composition varies exactly in the sequence in which salts would precipitate out of an evaporating lake. There are instances of at least many thousands of such layers, and I have seen no recent-creationist attempt to account for this. But that does not prove there are none. The question is whether they are successful, and success should be measured by the ability to reproduce rapid formation in the laboratory. If this had been achieved, I am sure the recent-creationist literature would give it great prominence, so it must not have been done yet.
Recent-creationists claim much evidence that the Grand Canyon was actually formed rapidly and recently, soon after the Flood, in the catastrophic draining of a huge lake. They may be right at least about the rapid part. But if so, such a large-scale sudden erosional event should have dumped a huge conspicuous layer of sediment downstream along the lower Colorado River and out into the Gulf of California and the nearby Pacific Ocean. But recent-creationists seem to make no mention of this, nor claim to find such a layer. They actually make a virtue of its absence, claiming this proves the canyon is mostly the result of a splitting of the surface, not erosion. Is there any other known instance where fault-line motion produces a wide V-shaped valley? So I have not yet heard a satisfactory answer to the question of where all the eroded material went.
Also, if all this happened soon after the Flood when all the layers were still fresh and soft from formation during the Flood, it would not leave tall vertical cliffs. Hard rock will stand in such a formation, but soft mud will not.
Incidentally, ICR’s book on the Grand Canyon contains a chapter on meteorology, which makes the passing comment that the reason the sky on Mars is red is because of the CO2 in its atmosphere. This is ridiculous; Venus contains nearly 10,000 times as much CO2 in its atmosphere, and is not red. I was kindly given a pre-publication copy of the book in 1991, and mentioned this error in a letter to the editor, along with many other matters. This is a trivial detail, unrelated to any issue of recent-creationism, yet it remained in the book when it was published in 1994. Such slipups reflect poorly on the competence of the authors.
There is the matter of cementation or lithification of rock layers; hard rock is not just dry mud. It consists of particles or grains cemented together by crystalline material filling the spaces between them. This comes from water seeping through those spaces, carrying dissolved minerals that crystallize to produce cementation. This seems to require a very long time to occur. It is reported that there are rapidly-formed layers at Mt. St. Helens; are they cemented? Even if so, how does the process scale up from a formation, say, 100 ft thick and a mile or two wide, to a formation 1 mile thick and 1000 miles wide?
In summary, I as a bystander with no personal experience or expertise in field geology can only wonder whom to believe, and hope the experts will keep working on it. It seems no one has a really good answer yet. But it does seem certain that there are fatal obstacles in the way of acceptance of a model that tries to explain all, or even most, of geology in terms of a single-year Flood a few thousand years ago.
Astronomers have gotten the geologists’ attention, and everyone else’s, with their accounts of the effects of the impact of an object several hundred meters in diameter or larger. An impact on land would within seconds sterilize an area extending up to several hundred kilometers, and produce atmospheric effects over the whole planet for months. An impact in the ocean, which covers the majority of the Earth’s surface, would similarly affect the atmosphere, and create monstrous tidal waves that would obliterate every coastline they reached. Mile-high waves could race at nearly the speed of sound hundreds of kilometers inland, even easily sloshing across mountain ranges. This would do a lot more than just get everything wet. It would also fill inland basins in minutes, and take many centuries to evaporate dry. The geology community has not even begun to really consider what this would do to the surface, and how much of the existing layer structure must be reinterpreted in terms of such occasional events. This should also account for many of the facts that recent-creationists emphasize in their critique of conventional slow-and-steady geological interpretations.
Could the Flood of Noah all be the result of an asteroid or comet impact, tidal waves, climatic disruption, perhaps shift of the Earth on its axis? An impact on the deep ocean, especially at a low angle, could leave no crater, evaporate a huge volume of water suddenly, cause immediate tidal waves, and perhaps even produce a slight shift of Earth’s rotation. The tidal waves and climatic disruption would be global, and perhaps could explain for the Biblical account of the event, but not require rearrangement of the surface of the Earth on the scale envisioned by Flood geology. There is no known evidence of such a recent event, but perhaps it just has not been correctly interpreted. It is certainly not on geoscientists’ conceptual framework.
Rapid formation is not necessarily recent formation. For years recent-creationists seemed to consider it sufficient to point out evidence of rapid formation, and only in recent years have they realized this is not enough to prove recent creation. They are attempting to respond, with the claim that the layers do connect up in a continuous series. But it will take a lot more and detailed work yet to prove that all such events can be stitched together into a single global catastrophe.
Geologists’ dating of fossils is based on the assumption of an evolutionary history of life on the Earth. This dating primarily employs index fossils, which means fossils which they believe they have found to have lived over a fairly brief time period. Many other fossils occur in many layers, which is assumed to mean they lived during a long time period and therefore cannot be used as a precise index of the age of the layer in which they are found. These index fossils are the subject of John Woodmorappe’s massive review, which he feels throws the whole conventional dating system into doubt by dismantling the sequence in the standard geological column. I am not qualified to judge this. But it is interesting to note that if Mr. Woodmorappe is correct, then intending to find support for recent creation, he may have unintentionally resolved one of the purported problems with long-age progressive creation, by eliminating the conflict between the sequence in the Genesis account and the sequence in the fossils. At least he has undermined its importance as a recent-creationist objection to long ages.
That conflict may only be apparent anyway. There is some room for flexibility in the Genesis story. It does not even mention ocean plants, or insects (creeping things?). There is the possibility that the days are overlapping ages, or even that the sequence is topical more than chronological, mentioning only the predominant new life forms at each step. From the geological side, the sequence of fossilization need not necessarily be the same as the sequence of creation. That too could help account for the difference in sequence.
If the fossils were in the same order as the Genesis account, that would be evidence for long-age creation and against Flood geology. But the fact that they are not is not evidence for recent creation or Flood geology.
Fossils are undeniably found in clearly-defined groups. Mr. Woodmorappe’s alternative to the usual chronological geological interpretation is that these groups represent different ecological regions in the pre-Flood world, which he has attempted to map. This may have some validity. But critics point out that it still does not explain why, for example, reptiles and mammals which now occupy the same environments are not found together as fossils. So this too is an uncompleted study.
With so many unknowns, the fossil sequence seems to prove little more than a tendency to progress upward from simple to increasingly complex. This seems most naturally explained in terms of slow formation of some layers which do not contain fossils, with occasional regional catastrophes of various sizes forming other layers and nearly all the fossils. These events could include spurts of plate tectonic movement, large impacts, shifts of the Earth on its axis, etc. Ecological catastrophes could also be caused by nearby supernovae or gamma-ray bursts. Probably all the competing theories contain part of the truth.
On to the vapor canopy. There is not yet any adequate scientific model of such a canopy. This is not for lack of trying. Jody Dillow’s attempt in the late 70s was a heroic compilation of information. He made some preliminary computations. Since then Larry Vardiman at ICR has inherited the concept and pursued computational investigations. Early results showed that a vapor layer produces a strong greenhouse effect, such that much more than the equivalent of two or three feet of water would raise the surface temperature above the inhabitable range. However, this neglected the effects of clouds, which reflect much of the incident sunlight and thus offset the greenhouse heating. Models with this included may be more promising. But if the pre-Flood Earth was almost totally cloud-covered, then what use were the Sun, Moon, and stars for measuring times and seasons?
However, all these models neglect some problems that seem fatal to the entire concept.
First, its very existence. Water vapor condenses when its density exceeds a limit that rises rapidly with temperature. Perhaps that sounds technical, but we are all familiar with condensation on a cold glass of water on a warm humid day. The same thing would happen in a dense layer of water vapor. For pure water vapor at one atmosphere of pressure, that temperature is what we call the boiling point, 100° C or 212° F. Doubling the density raises this temperature about 10° C. A layer of water about 10 meters deep, or 32 ft, has a pressure of one atmosphere at the bottom. So a layer that contained enough water to be a significant source of the Flood, say at least several hundred feet of liquid water, would be many atmospheres, and require a fairly high temperature to remain in the vapor state. Early versions of the canopy theory suggested it had this much water, but failed to consider this factor or anything else quantitative. Dillow and Vardiman reduced the quantity to a few feet of water at most, so that this is no longer playing the role of a source of the Flood, and reduces its density low enough not to condense immediately.
Second, stability: How could such a nonuniform composition be maintained in the atmosphere, with a layer of mostly water vapor on top of our present atmosphere? It needs to persist for at least 1600 years from creation to the Flood. It faces threats to its continued existence from both above and below.
From below, any slight turbulence in the lower atmosphere would mix it with the water layer above, and steadily dilute and dissipate that layer. I am sure this mixing from below would destroy such a vapor layer within a few years. I have no precise basis for this opinion other than the present state of continual chaos in the troposphere, the bottom 10-15 km of the atmosphere that is featured in the evening weather report. The stable stratosphere above exchanges with the troposphere on a time scale of a few years, far shorter than the 1600 years from Adam to the flood. Even if the Earth once had a more uniform climate and therefore milder circulation patterns in the troposphere, it still is difficult to believe a strongly nonuniform composition could persist for many centuries.
Jody Dillow proposed a phenomenon called Couette flow, which occurs in a fluid between two solid cylinders, one rotating and one at rest or at least at a different speed, and both exerting viscous forces on the fluid flow. This is fatally inapplicable to a vapor canopy, because the top of the canopy is of course outer space, not a solid surface capable of exerting the indispensable viscous force.
From above, water vapor exposed to raw solar radiation would rapidly be dissociated by solar ultraviolet rays into hydrogen and oxygen, and the light hydrogen would rapidly escape into space. I cannot estimate the speed of the escape of hydrogen; perhaps this would not be significant in 1600 years, perhaps it would. No recent-creationist has evaluated this yet. The only reason this is not a problem in the present atmosphere is because the temperature at the base of the stratosphere is so low, minus 60° C or even colder. This condenses almost all the water out of the air, leaving it very dry there and thus from there on up. This is the effect used in a “cold trap” in a vacuum system. If the high atmosphere had the same water content as the air near the surface, the water would rapidly dissociate and the hydrogen would escape to space.
A fact mentioned in support of a pre-Flood canopy and the (supposedly) associated uniform worldwide climate is the occurrence of tropical fossils in rocks found near both poles. There are several possible explanations of this besides a uniform climate. It should also be pointed out there are glacier-type scratches on rocks in the African tropics, which to be consistent would be evidence against a uniform climate. Or should we propose that the poles were once hot and the equator cold?
However, there are other possible explanations. Continental drift must be taken into account, meaning that fossils that are now in polar regions were not necessarily in polar regions when they were formed, but have been transported there. Similarly, the glacier scratches now in the tropics were not necessarily in the tropics when formed. Another possibility is the shift of the Earth on its axis, so that present polar regions were once not near the poles. Such a shift could place the ancient poles in open oceans, say in the North Pacific and South Atlantic. Our present frigid polar climates are possible only because the Arctic Ocean is land-locked and the south pole is in a continent. If ocean currents could reach clear to the poles, this would greatly moderate the temperature variation with latitude. The present location of the poles gives a degree of symmetry to the Earth, with continents surrounding the North Pole and a continent centered on the South Pole. Another somewhat symmetric arrangement would be with a pole near the center of the Pacific, the other in or near Africa. This is an alternative explanation for those glacier markings in Africa.
Recent-creationists’ confidence in the canopy theory far exceeds the evidence, both Biblical and scientific, to a degree that is matched, but still not exceeded, only by evolutionists’ confidence in evolution. It is a nonexistent solution to a nonexistent problem.
The leakage rate of high-pressure oil and gas deposits is another subject on which I am unqualified to judge, and sounds to me like a good question worth pursuing. I find it hard to believe that the entire geological community would have failed to notice if this is a real problem, but then we all have blind spots. One possible solution is that natural gas, methane, is not the product of the same organic material that produces coal and oil, but is diffusing upward from the deeper interior of the Earth. This would provide a source to resupply the gas and the pressure. This suggestion remains unverified but as far as I know it is not disproven either.
Be that as it may, this point alone is certainly not sufficient reason to disregard all the evidence for long time periods. See the following comments on the catastrophic plate tectonics model of the Flood.
Ocean salts (this includes many dissolved chemicals besides the familiar and predominant sodium chloride) are given great emphasis by recent-creationists as evidence against a multi-billion-year age for the Earth and its oceans. This is based on the available data on the rates at which these salts are currently added to and removed from the ocean. At present the estimated addition rate is several times faster than the removal rate, and the difference would, for different chemicals, produce the observed concentrations of the various salts in times from a few hundred million years down to a few years. Recent-creationists produce quotes from experts stating that this state of affairs is very surprising and puzzling.
It is an interesting topic. However, recent-creationists also have a hard time accounting for all the details. They must assume of course that the accumulation has not been uniform but was greatly affected by the global Flood. Another variable is the question of the composition with which, in the recent-creation scenario, God originally created the ocean, so this is linked to created age. So with a Flood and miraculous beginning included in their model, recent-creationists have enough variables at their disposal to explain anything, which is equivalent to explaining nothing. Why was it created in that particular way? But of course their emphasis is not on claiming that they can explain it but that long ages cannot.
I feel that the estimated rates of addition and removal are probably subject to larger uncertainties than even the experts seem willing to admit. Both addition and removal are major effects, and small errors in estimates of those effects leads to large errors in the estimated difference.
There are several important processes. One of the largest is removal of water from the oceans in the form of spray droplets. Unlike evaporation, this takes all the salt along with the water. It seems to me that the global total of this effect is impossible to estimate more accurately than a factor of two or three. It would be concentrated in violent weather such as hurricanes, in which accurate measurements are impossible. Such uncertainties place a solution of the problem within reach. Also, as discussed in the next point, the rates at present may in fact be much faster than the long-term average.
The present rates of erosion on land and sedimentation in the oceans have less room for such uncertainty. However here it seems that the recent-creationists have once again committed the uniformitarian error of extrapolation from the present too far into the past. They have exposed an objection to a strong uniformitarian assumption, but that does not equal proving recent creation.
It is interesting to relate this question to the catastrophic plate tectonics model of the Flood. The model is a fascinating suggestion. I am not competent to comment on it, but Dr. Baumgardner’s credentials are convincing, and the computer modeling program is a product of a professional research team at Los Alamos, which is not dominated by recent-creationists. I do not imply by that that the model would be unacceptable if it were so dominated. The model reportedly indicates that the subduction of crustal plates into the Earth’s mantle can become unstable and suddenly accelerate greatly, even to the extent of providing a model for the cataclysm of the Flood year.
I am skeptical that this really could explain our present world in terms of a one-year overturning of the entire previous surface of the Earth, but it seems that perhaps they have unintentionally solved all the problems of ocean salts, erosion rates, oil and gas leakage rates, and sedimentation rates. Their model may demonstrate that the motions of the Earth’s mantle and crust do not occur at a slow steady rate on a time scale of hundreds of millions of years, but in short spurts of faster motion separated by long periods of relative calm. There are countless examples of such behavior, from earthquakes on fault lines to a bow on a violin string. Thus the present world may not represent a long-term average state, but instead still be in the recovering aftermath of a spurt of tectonic plate movement and mountain-building. I will not even venture a guess about how long ago that spurt was or how long it lasted. I am open to major revision of the geologists’ current standard time scale of the formation of the Earth’s layers and mountains; I have no commitment to their time scale. Perhaps spurts last, say, a million years, separated by intervals many times that long. This suggestion easily fits in with the pattern of God’s providential preparation of the world for habitation, including the present environment for these brief few thousand years of human history. If true, this would be only one more item in the long list of such provisions (ch. 6, II).
This model may not long remain untested. It should soon be verified or refuted by the rapid progress in the world seismic network, producing increasingly precise data on the internal structure of the Earth. If there was in fact a catastrophic overturning of the entire surface of the Earth only a few thousand years ago, then the interior should still have major inhomogeneities due to variations in temperature and composition of slabs which recently sunk from their previous location in the crust. If no such patterns become apparent, then this would be catastrophic to the plate tectonics Flood model. We should know within a few years.
Pleochroic halos are formed by the radiation from small radioactive crystals in granite and sometimes other minerals. Robert Gentry claims that the pattern of some of the halos indicates they are from radioactive elements whose half-lives are on the order of seconds or even less, which is impossible if the granite cooled and crystallized slowly for thousands of years. He claims this is evidence that the rocks were created instantly in their solid form. For now I can only suspend judgment on these claims; there are articles raising questions about the identification of the halos and the source of the rock samples.
It would be very strange if God chose to produce this one tiny evidence of instant creation, when He otherwise went to such lengths to cover His tracks and disguise a young universe as an old one. It makes much better sense to assume the universe really is old, and there is some other explanation for the halos. It is a pity that Dr. Gentry sacrificed his career for the sake of defending his conclusion from the halos.
For many years recent-creationists widely publicized the discovery of human and dinosaur footprints together in the shale layers of the Paluxy River in Texas. Films for Christ made a movie of it. If true, this requires a drastic revision of the usual timetable of the existence of dinosaurs and of humans. There were of course already many people who objected to these claims, basically questioning whether the footprints are really human. They are considerably larger than present humans. But in the mid-80s weathering of many of the prints uncovered a few years earlier began to reveal toe marks in front of the purported footprints, indicating that the footprints in fact are made by the heel of a dinosaur. Films for Christ withdrew the film, and ICR officially stated that the footprints for now must be set aside. In the years since then there have been claims of human and dinosaur footprints together at sites elsewhere in the world, but none has gained the publicity and acceptance the Texas ones once had.
A related issue is the apparent description of dinosaurs in the Bible, especially Job. These descriptions are interesting, perhaps puzzling, but less than conclusive. A very large crocodile might fill the bill. More recent reports of dinosaur sightings, including medieval European and Chinese dragons and the Loch Ness Monster, are still unverified. But the most important point is that this point is irrelevant to recent creation. Even if true, it proves nothing. It would be fascinating to find some dinosaur species still living, especially a large one. But that would not overthrow the entire geological and evolutionary framework. Similar things have already occurred, such as the famous discovery of the coelacanth fish which was thought to have been extinct for many millions of years. This discovery was simply accepted as proving that creatures can exist for long periods without leaving abundant fossils, which no one doubted in the first place.
Flood legends have already been discussed in connection with the widespread occurrence of evolutionary concepts.
The rate of human population growth obviously could not have been a continuous exponential curve multiplying every few hundred years or less for a million years or more. Once again, recent-creationists are extrapolating too far, committing the uniformitarian fallacy. Over the long term, disease and predators would maintain a steady population. There are simply too many unknowns to allow any firm conclusions on this basis.
C Evaluation of recent-creationist scientific criticism of long ages and the Big BangFirst we must review what that evidence is, and add some more. Ch. 1, VI, and ch. 6, I, discussed the expansion of the universe and its indication of the time period involved. Many other kinds of evidence tell us something about the age of the universe. Here briefly are the most important ones.
We can see light from galaxies whose distances we estimate to be at least 10 billion light years, so it appears that their light has traveled at least 10 billion years to reach us.
Star clusters seem to have many different ages up to about 13 billion years, indicated by their H-R diagrams. (Some background in astronomy is required to understand this.) There are many types of stars, some of which are precisely explained as the result of a process of several billion years beginning from a contracting gas cloud. We have not found any white dwarf stars which seem to be older than about 10 billion years. All these facts lead us to estimate the age of our galaxy as at least 10 billion years.
We see galaxies in all stages of colliding and combining with each other, a process that takes as much as 1 billion years. We see jets and bubbles of gas with sizes up to 1,000,000 light years and speeds of 1/100 the speed of light or less, which indicates a process continuing at least several hundred million years. This doesn’t require specialized astronomical background, only the ability to divide a distance by a speed to get a time interval. Children learn this in grade school.
The sun’s mass and luminosity fit calculated models for a main-sequence star with an age of about 5,000,000,000 years.
For rocks from the earth, the moon, and meteorites, radioactive dating indicates ages up to a little less than that.
Jupiter is emitting heat; calculation of the cooling rate of Jupiter indicates a time of about 4-1/2 billion years beginning from a contracting cloud of hydrogen gas.
All the solid surfaces in the solar system have many craters, indicating a long, complex history of impacts which must have taken at least several billion years. This was discussed earlier in connection with the moon-dust “evidence” for recent creation.
The rock layers on the earth indicate long time periods of erosion and deposition, at least several billion years.
So there are several independent evidences that seem to indicate the solar system is between 4-1/2 and 5 billion years old; the current best estimate is between 4.8 and 4.9 billion.
Recent-creationists of course contest all these assertions. So we must consider their attempt to refute all this.
The light-travel-time problem has been a thorn in the side of recent-creationists ever since the beginning of the movement, and they have attempted every imaginable way (and some unimaginable) to remove it. It is still there.
It is undeniably a uniformitarian extrapolation, assuming that the speed of light is the same everywhere in the universe and always has been. In the 80s a vast amount of recent-creation ink and paper was devoted to questioning this assumption, and assuming instead that the speed of light was initially far higher than it is now, so that the entire universe became visible from earth almost immediately after creation. This claimed some basis in the history of measurements of the speed of light, which seems to show a downward trend from the earliest 17th-century measurements to the mid-20th. They even found a formula which seems to fit the three centuries of data, which extended backward zooms off to a very large value several thousand years ago.
Even other creationists raised questions about these data and this interpretation. It was originally suggested by Barry Setterfield and other Australians, and questioned by ICR in the US, leading to some unfriendly comments about national prejudice which we will not pursue. It is sufficient to say that there are other ways to account for the observed trend in the measurements, so it is doubtful whether there has been any variation in the speed of light at all. Even if this observed trend is genuine, it is a very tiny variation, which levels off in the 19th and 20th centuries, so that almost any curve with this general behavior fits the data. It is a vast extrapolation to assume that any particular formula is the correct one and then extend it out to assume huge variations have occurred in the past.
It also seems almost perverse if the Creator really did arrange such a variation in the speed of light, just exactly leveling off in the 20th century and staying just ahead of improvements in precision that could clearly verify it.
The speed of light is such a fundamental property of the universe, and linked to so many other properties, that the burden of proof is on anyone who proposes otherwise. The speed of light is not simply one of a list of unrelated specifications of the universe; it is intimately tied by several physical laws to other constants that describe the basic structure of atoms and thus of all matter, even highly ionized plasma. As was explained in ch. 6, II, it is incredible how the many characteristics of the universe are all so precisely mutually suitable so as to produce a universe in which life is possible. Now these people are trying to say that this unique solution is not enough, we also must assume a continuously sliding variation of many of these constants over a very wide range of values, always of course keeping the universe in existence and stable. Among the results, we have the light emitted from distant galaxies reach us with spectra identical to that seen in our own laboratories except for a red shift. There is no proof that such a path of continuous mutual variation even exists, and it is probably impossible for us ever to know enough about that many “what if”s to construct such a proof. Some people have published complex attempts to do so, but I remain skeptical that it could possibly be done. Therefore there is also no proof that it is impossible, but it seems we should be reluctant to assume it exists and has happened unless there is overwhelming evidence for it. The burden of proof is on those who assert it. This must be a last resort in solving the light travel time problem. I do not believe such a last resort is necessary. Frankly, of course, I do not believe the problem exists at all. I believe the universe really is old enough for the light we see to reach us. The problem only exists for recent-creationists. If all these gymnastics with sliding constants had anything to do with the long-age model, recent-creationists would heap scorn on it, just as they do on missing mass, the Oort Cloud, and so on.
We have already discussed in sec. A the suggestion that God created light rays already on their way to us from distant stars and galaxies. That is “created history.”
Another common recent-creationist attempt to pull out this light-travel thorn has been to question whether the galaxies really are so distant, but this has mostly been dropped in recent years. At the 1980 Summer Institute at ICR, one speaker spent an hour raising questions about the accuracy of astronomical distance estimates, and concluded by pointing out that it doesn’t matter anyway. There are uncertainties in the methods used to estimate the distance of remote galaxies. But the estimated uncertainty is about a factor of two, and a worst-case scenario could barely reach a factor of ten. That sounds terrible at first, but it is tremendous progress from, say, the early 19th century when we had no idea at all of the size of the universe, and even the early 20th when galaxies outside the Milky Way had not even been recognized as such. Review the history of 20th century science in ch. 1. How do you determine the distance of a fuzzy faint glow? It is not easy, and an uncertainty of two is pretty good. But when the distance is estimated to be over 10,000,000,000 light years, an uncertainty of even ten is just one less zero, scant comfort to someone who is looking for evidence that the universe is less than 10,000 years old. You may be unsure whether a particular place is 100 or 200 kilometers away, but that does not mean that it might in fact be 1 centimeter away. Grasping at such straws is a sign of desperation, and most recent-creationists have let go.
In a strange attempt to reinforce this admittedly irrelevant straw, recent-creationists note that a few professional astronomers raise objections to the use of the red shift of light as a measure of distance. The foremost one in this has been Halton Arp, accompanied by Geoffrey and Margaret Burbidge, Fred Hoyle, Jaylant Narlikar, and a few others. Their argument is that there are a number of high-redshift quasars which are observed very near low-redshift galaxies, and even in some cases seem to show a visible link to them, and that there are many more such cases than would occur simply by chance placement of the quasars in the sky. They agree that in many other cases the redshift is truly an accurate indication of great distance; they are just quibbling about these cases, and about the Big Bang theory of the beginning.
This debate in the astronomical world is not finished yet, but they have won virtually no converts, and others point out many factual and philosophical flaws in their case. Their alternative theory is that these quasars are newly created and ejected from the galaxy near them. Yes, they say “created,” matter that did not previously exist, a violation of the generally accepted principle of conservation of matter and energy. They are atheists, and one motive of their objection to the Big Bang is its unpalatable resemblance to a creation, because of its inability to account for anything before the Big Bang. They consider this as in principle inadmissible as a scientific theory. Others, not just Christians, reply that this is a subjective philosophical standard, a matter of personal opinion, on which others prefer to suspend judgment. It is a truly curious state of affairs when recent-creationists find common cause with such a group! Their common cause is opposition to the Big Bang; but what they advocate instead is an eternal godless universe and a young created one, respectively!
Enter Russell Humphreys and his application of general relativity. In his model, as nearly as I can understand it, the universe was initially a small sphere (of water! but never mind that detail) that collapsed under its own gravitation and then rebounded in a huge explosion. This explosion and rebound was assisted by divine manipulation of Einstein’s cosmological constant, so that for a while there was a repulsion which was stronger than the gravitational attraction. For a brief time during this process, there was a white hole from which material was streaming outward to form the present universe. The surface of this white hole miraculously coincided with the present surface of the earth. At this surface, time proceeded far more slowly than it did in the more distant matter, so that while six days transpired at the surface of the earth many billions of years transpired in the distant universe.
This gives me a headache too. Dr. Humphreys spent several years studying general relativity, and has carried on a spirited debate with various critics of his theory, especially some long-age creationists who claim sufficient expertise in this area. I don’t make any such claim. But for what it’s worth, in Paul Davies’ book It’s About Time, he describes a black hole. Dr. Humphreys asserts that a black hole and a white hole have many similarities. As viewed from the outside, an object at the event-horizon surface of a black hole is frozen in time. But Dr. Davies states that the reverse does not hold; it does not mean that an observer at that surface will see the universe passing through an eternity. He will sense his time as proceeding normally, and himself as proceeding rapidly through that surface and onward inside of it. He will observe signals from the outside universe as proceeding forward in time quite normally. Fortunately, Dr. Davies has not heard of Dr. Humphreys’ theory; if he did it would only prompt him to ridicule it and the Bible on which it claims to be based. But it does seem to undermine Dr. Humphreys’ assertion that an observer at the surface of a white hole would observe the external universe passing through a far longer time period than he himself does. That assertion is the motivation for his entire project.
Hugh Ross distributes an article by Christians, in which they evaluate Humphreys’ theory and find it scientifically incorrect, which Humphreys of course strongly rejects. So it is a battle of claims of competence. Based on past performance, I would not bet on Humphreys.
The existence of black holes is increasingly well verified by astronomical observations, but white holes remain a mathematical curiosity in the theory, with no demonstrated connection to reality. Also, the concept of the cosmological constant has a complex history and even its existence is still an uncertain matter. See ch. 1 and 6, I.
Finally, I offer a personal comment on the significance of such an attempt to solve the light-travel-time problem. Its crucial element is supernatural manipulation of Einstein’s cosmological constant. It seems to assume that God Himself is bound by the laws of general relativity, and must find ways to work through or around them. If we must assume so much supernatural intervention, it seems much simpler to revert to created age, and just say God created a universe that is billions of years old. Dr. Humphreys finds this assumption difficult to accept, for many of the same reasons that I do. But it does not seem to me that he has found a better answer. Many recent-creationists are awed by his ability to claim to understand general relativity, and they hope maybe he is on to something, but still cautiously (and wisely) don’t quite commit themselves to trusting it.
All of this discussion for several years is motivated by a desire to maintain the credibility of the recent-creation interpretation of the Bible in the face of contrary evidence from nature. It is a non-solution to a non-problem. The appropriate conclusion is to send the theologians back to work, not the scientists.
Recent-creationists often list both this and the no-old-supernova-remnant arguments, usually not realizing that the two are contradictory. One says the universe is billions of years old, the other says it is not.
The issues involved in uniformitarianism are essentially the same as those involved in the discussion of miracles in general; review ch. 5, V, A.
It is contradictory to criticize the Big Bang theory as both “something from nothing” and “naturalistic.” Recent-creationists must choose one or the other of these objections. Something from nothing is not naturalistic.
Christians, of all people, should have no objection in principle to an unexplained beginning or one that violates the Second Law of thermodynamics! Of course creation is beyond science and violates the Second Law, not to mention all the other laws; isn’t that exactly what we have believed all along? As stated earlier, we must not make our faith dependent on any particular scientific theory, but when a theory fits the Bible so well and removes a previous conflict, it is legitimate to point that out. The Big Bang theory can very naturally be compared with the Biblical concept of creation. It is at least an important shift from apparent conflict to consistency between science and theology, which could be considered a confirmation of both theology and the Bible.
The Big Bang theory may or may not eventually be replaced by a different theory that is not consistent with the Bible. But in the meantime we need not be paralyzed by fear of that possibility. We trust that God’s Word can stand up to the truth, whatever new discoveries may be made. The possible future loss of one apparent confirmation would not endanger our faith; there are plenty more. In opposing the Big Bang on some purported principle, recent-creationists are snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
There are three primary types of theories of the origin of the universe currently under discussion: an eternal steady state, a Big Bang beginning, and recent creation. All three violate the Second Law, so that is an irrelevant consideration in choosing among them. However, we must be clear where each one violates the Second Law. My graduate-school thermodynamics course was somewhat beyond me; the Second Law in its full quantitative form is no simple matter. But its basic principle is simple enough, as already described in ch. 6, I; any natural system will change to states of increasing disorder.
The steady-state universe is no longer advocated by more than a tiny few astronomers who are atheists; their only recourse is to assume that the Second Law somehow does not apply on this scale, or can be circumvented by an infinity.
The Big Bang theory begins with the bang, not before; the origin of the bang is left unexplained. This can be considered a violation not only of the Second Law but of every law! It is the beginning of all observed laws. Many in the scientific community also are uncomfortable with an unexplained beginning, and of course hope to find a natural explanation, but they must be content with a theory that is confined to the limits of what is presently known. If some scientists speculate about a primordial cosmic egg and so on, that is an admission that they have no scientific explanation beyond the Big Bang, but that has nothing to do with whether the theory is valid up to that point. The theory begins at that point, and any speculation about things before that is exactly that, speculation, a personal opinion that has nothing to do with the Big Bang theory itself, and for which it should not be blamed. To place such blame on it is to place guilt by association, a serious logical fallacy. If a theory is to be judged by the flaws in other unrelated ideas held by some of its proponents, then recent creation is in big trouble.
In addition to this question, recent-creationists also often state that the formation of the present “highly complex” universe from an initial explosion is a violation of the Second Law. However, they have never given any competent proof of this assertion; they are only playing games with the words “complexity” and “order” so as to suit their preconceived purposes. This charge of violation of the Second Law is baseless. In what sense is the universe ordered? In recent-creationist videotapes they often show pictures of living things while stating this point, which is changing the subject. Of course a Big Bang can’t create life; this is discussed below. But if the question is the origin of the universe, then let’s stick to astronomical examples. Stars in a star cluster are scattered randomly. Galaxies in a galaxy cluster are scattered and oriented randomly. The solar system is inclined over 70° from the plane of the Milky Way. What signs of unnatural order are there here? The burden of proof is still on the recent-creationists to substantiate their charge of a violation.
The proportion of matter and anti-matter in the universe is not yet well explained; this is a valid question. However, there is a phenomenon in high-energy particle physics called CP-violation, which involves a slight imbalance between matter and anti-matter. So there is a possible answer in sight on this one. And of course we who believe in creation can always just say that God initially created slightly more matter than anti-matter, so that there would be a little left over. On what basis must we assume that they were initially equal? If Russell Humphreys can envision God making wild adjustments in the cosmological constant, surely we can envision Him making an infinitesimal tweak of the proportions of matter and anti-matter. But I do not think even this is necessary.
The four Second-Law objections to star formation are deliberately placed together here so as to highlight how mutually contradictory they are, so perhaps I am slightly misrepresenting recent-creationists by stating it in this way. But I have seen recent-creationist articles in which they actually are placed side-by-side, apparently with no awareness of a contradiction. Obviously, the Big Bang can’t be both too chaotic and too uniform, and the universe can’t be both too complex and too ordered; recent-creationists must at least pick one or the other as their objection. They state it both ways because the Second Law is sometimes stated in terms of order and sometimes complexity, so they are trying to apply both terms. But in this application they are demonstrating that they understand neither the Second Law nor order nor complexity. They are just arguing about words, and saying what a lot of people want to hear. The Apostle Paul warned against this, in a slightly different context, 2 Timothy 2:14; 4:3, 4.
Recent-creationists often claim that the formation of stars from contracting gas clouds is an increase in order and/or complexity, but this has never been demonstrated by anything more competent than hand-waving. A gas cloud contracting under its own gravitation and emitting part of the resulting heat is moving toward a lower-energy and more-probable state than its initial state; this is no violation of the Second Law. If this is a violation, then so is a ball rolling down a hill, or the water running down a recent-creationist’s shower drain. If an increase in complexity is a violation, then so is a proverbial bull in a china shop, or an explosion (hmm, like the Big Bang!). Recent-creationists claim that the Second Law forbids both the expansion of the universe and the contraction of a gas cloud. Obviously their logic has stripped a gear somewhere.
The late beloved George Mulfinger wrote an article in which he claimed to show that the gravitational contraction of a gas cloud violated both the Second Law and the laws of mechanics. His article was in CRSQ 7:7-24, 1970, and also published as CRS (Creation Research Society) Monograph no. 2, 1983, Design and Origins in Astronomy, ISBN 0-940384-5. This article is occasionally cited as a basis for recent-creationists’ claims of flaws in the usual theory of star formation. It is preposterous to assert that all the highly-developed computer models of stellar structure and development continue to contain a flagrant violation of the Second Law which has gone entirely unnoticed.
The article contained errors for which a freshman physics student would be flunked, so recent-creationists are best advised to leave the article like its author to rest in peace. The article also listed many of the other invalid criticisms of the Big Bang discussed elsewhere in this section. This also disposes of CRSQ’s ambition of being a competent, peer-reviewed professional journal, at least at the time this article was accepted. More recent editors have struggled to raise the standards, but they have received more opposition than help from the recent-creationist constituency. May their efforts continue and their tribe increase.
To head off any hopes that I am only bluffing and have insufficient basis or competence to make this statement, I briefly summarize the errors. His Second-Law calculation quoted an early (1963) model of stellar formation, giving initial and final radius and temperature. Mulfinger took these as being a uniform temperature throughout the cloud, but certainly the final temperature was non-uniform, highest at the center. The quoted temperature must have been meant to apply only to a particular point, probably the surface. I do not have access to that article to confirm this, but it is unimportant. His formula for entropy only included the two terms of a simple ideal gas, sensible heat and mechanical work. It failed to include gravitational potential energy, which obviously is an essential part of the process. It also omits the phase change from atomic and molecular to ionized plasma. A simple ideal gas model is hopelessly inappropriate.
Mulfinger’s mechanical calculation purported to calculate the pressure at the outer surface of the cloud and show that it is greater than the gravitational attraction, thus it will not contract. But his pressure calculation used the hydrostatic equation beginning from an assumed zero pressure at the center and integrating outward with pressure increasing with distance from the center; this is obviously all backwards!
Recent-creationists would be much better off if they totally abandoned their attempts to employ the Second Law in their criticism of the Big Bang theory and stellar evolution.
There are of course many unanswered questions about the early stages of the development of the universe from the Big Bang. It is still debated whether stars formed first and then began to gather into galaxies, or galaxies formed first as concentrations of primordial gas and then began to form stars. At present external influences are required to compress interstellar gas sufficiently to begin contraction to form a star, but in the early universe the density was much higher. This is a complex situation, on a par with the analysis of the core of the earth and the geomagnetic field, discussed in sec. B. Repeating the example given there, the atmosphere performs before our eyes and we still cannot account for all that we see let alone predict tomorrow’s weather accurately, but we do not insist that what we see therefore must not exist. The very early universe is forever beyond our observation, but must remain a subject of estimation and modeling. No wonder there are many unanswered questions and uncertainties, and no doubt there always will be. But this does not prove it did not exist.
Finally, there is the observation of the tiny ripples in the cosmic background radiation, which were first reported in 1992 from continuing analysis of COBE satellite data. Recent-creationists had for years been pointing out that no such ripples had been observed, and claiming that this was a fatal flaw in the Big-Bang theory. When the ripples finally were reported, recent-creationists at first doubted the observations were valid, because they were barely above the level of instrumental uncertainty. But this has since been confirmed, and several projects are in progress to measure the ripples much more accurately.
In summary, recent-creationist objections to the Big Bang are that they claim it does not explain what it should and explains what it should not. It does not explain its own origin, nor the origin of life, and does at least partly explain the origin of galaxies, stars and planets. These are unreasonable objections. Why should the Big Bang theory be expected to explain the origin of the bang or of life, and why should it not explain the origin of stars and planets? What it does explain involves no violation of known physical principles. In the aspects where it provides an explanation, recent-creationists call it naturalistic, and that’s bad. Where it does not, they call it unscientific, and that’s bad too. Recent-creationist objections to the Big Bang have a consistent history of retreating in the face of new observations. No wonder the scientific community is less than impressed with such criticisms. It tells little about creation, but a lot about recent-creationists.
The statement I saw about stars of different ages in a star cluster had no documentation. The only example I can think of that it could be referring to is the existence of “blue stragglers,” a few bright, blue and therefore young stars in globular clusters, which otherwise contain only small, red, old stars. When first discovered these blue stars were puzzling, but it is now well confirmed that such a star is the result of a recent (perhaps “only” millions of years ago) merger of two small red stars in a binary system, and that such mergers will occur occasionally in the crowded inner region of a globular cluster.
The assertion that stars cannot change is a truly amazing statement, one which is difficult to answer reasonably or politely. Responding is like trying to prove two plus two is not five. It just isn’t. How could stars possibly not change? What is there about Biblical creationism that requires the assertion that they do not? They are obviously spewing out huge amounts of energy, which must come from somewhere, and cannot go on forever, any more than you can drive your car forever without running out of gas. The well-established explanation is that stars produce their energy by nuclear fusion in their cores. In main-sequence stars this is fusion of hydrogen into helium, and in giant stars fusion of helium into carbon and oxygen, and, if the star is large enough, so on up to iron-56, after which comes a supernova explosion. This is all based on extensive computer modeling based on well-determined data from particle-accelerator research and other branches of physics. There are of course many uncertainties in details, which are being pursued in ongoing research as computer capabilities steadily increase. But there is no reasonable doubt about the basic process, and it is overwhelmingly confirmed by agreement with the characteristics of the countless stars in the sky. It is a blunder to equate this with biological evolution, which cannot be numerically modeled or confirmed by observation, and has no basis in known physical principles.
Another area of confirmation and refinement of this theory is helioseismology, the study of oscillations of the surface of the sun with periods of a few minutes. These are sound waves, which travel throughout the entire sun, and thus give us a window on its interior which is inaccessible to visible light or any other form of radiation. As its self-contradictory name implies, this is analogous to the study of the inaccessible interior of the earth by detecting earthquake waves at the surface. In the 90s this field is progressing rapidly, and in simplified form can also be applied to more distant stars.
To be fair, I must note that the few in the recent-creation community who are competent in this area acknowledge all this and have even published an article or two saying that the usual recent-creationist criticisms of stellar evolution are invalid. There has been no response from the rest of the community. One such article is “Toward a Creationist Astronomy” by Danny R. Faulkner and Don B. DeYoung, CRSQ vol. 28, Dec. 1991 pg 87. These two authors were introduced in sec. I. They state that there is at present no such thing as “creationist astronomy.” It remains to be constructed. They attribute this state of affairs to the fact that there are only a handful of workers, and they appeal for more. None has yet appeared. In my opinion the primary obstacle is there are no construction materials.
And now we come to the simultaneous objections that stars have never been observed to form or change and have been observed changing too quickly (including the shrinking-sun fiasco mentioned earlier)! These are plainly contradictory objections, and each one is invalid.
The first is especially blatant. It is equivalent to a recent-creationist’s two-year-old grandchild refusing to believe that grandfather was ever different than he is now; what would recent-creationists accept as evidence for a process that takes many millions of years? Two further examples hopefully will be helpful, if help is needed, which apparently it is. This is like cutting one frame out of a movie and denying the movie exists, or taking a one-hour walk through a forest and denying that trees sprout and grow. It is simply absurd, and it well deserves the derisive response it receives from the astronomical community
The claim that stars have never been observed to change is often qualified by the concession “except exploding supernovae,” but even this is a fatal concession, because something must have been changing to bring on the transition from stability to explosion. This is an objection based on lack of information, and as such is vulnerable to refutation when information becomes available. Some already is becoming available, as the time-span and precision of modern scientific observation continues to grow. There are brief stages in their lifetime at which stars do change comparatively suddenly, and it is inevitable that sooner or later we will with luck and skill catch a few in the act. Some pulsating variables show slight changes in their pulsation. Some white dwarfs show measurable cooling.
As long as we are complaining about things that have never been observed, we also have never observed a galaxy cluster or star cluster dispersing or a spiral arm winding up, as recent-creationists insist is happening. That also is a projection of present processes. If such a projection is invalid for the interior of stars, why is it valid for clusters and spiral arms?
As for the instances of changing too quickly, it is doubtful whether Sirius really was a red star in Roman times; the word translated red can also simply mean bright, and the quotations in question also may refer to its appearance when just rising, and reddened like the Sun at sunrise.
The reason a star has (arguably) not yet been observed in the act of forming is because it occurs inside a dense dust and gas cloud that is opaque to visible light, and because it is so small when it reaches that stage. But that cloud is transparent to infrared and radio emission, and detectors in those ranges are progressing rapidly. Already many examples have been observed that are almost certainly stars in process of forming, and will within a few years be clearly confirmed as such.
Returning to the grandfather and forest analogies, in both cases it is simple common sense to piece together the many individuals we see, and thus form a picture of the development process. We see babies, toddlers, pre-schoolers, and so on up to centenarians. We are told they are related to one another in various ways, and sure enough the family resemblance is there. In the forest we see tiny tree sprouts, saplings, on up to decaying huge trees. Types of trees occur in groups, and we see the seeds on the branch and on the ground.
In the sky we see stars of many different types, with various masses, brightnesses, and compositions, located in various environments. Their development with time is well represented by computer models based on established physical principles, and the results of those models compare extremely well with the stars we observe. As already stated in sec. B about supernovae, large short-lived stars are always found near dense nebulae in which they could form, and near other such stars, presumably their siblings from the same nursery. The actual process of formation must occur in the densest parts of nebulae, which contain so much dust that visible light is totally blocked. However, longer-wavelength infrared and radio waves are not blocked, and beginning in the 90s instruments have been built to observe at these wavelengths. They have found large star clusters hidden within these nebulae, and showing characteristics expected of newly formed stars. Far away from such neighborhoods, only small long-lived stars are found. If this is not sufficient evidence to establish the validity of the process of star formation and change with time, what would be?
Recent-creationists who give such prominence to this statement denying star formation and change are cooking crow for their successors to eat, and the meal has already begun. What conceivable justification is there on which they have led themselves and their followers into such a total debacle? Even assuming recent creation and apparent age, that age should be assumed to progress naturally from that point on.
The so-called Sakurai’s object is a specific instance of a star observed to be changing rapidly, and furthermore seemingly in the wrong direction, from a white dwarf into a red giant! This is certainly interesting, and is under close attention by astronomers. But by what stretch of logic can this be construed as overthrowing all of astrophysics, or supporting recent creation? Since when did God’s creation run out of surprises for us? There is no attempted cover-up of this case; how did recent-creationists hear about it except by reading published accounts? There certainly are no recent-creationists doing such observations or research themselves.
A long-standing debate in the astronomical community has been over the value of the Hubble constant, the rate of expansion of the universe, which in turn leads to an estimate of its age, the time elapsed since the explosion. The Hubble constant is measured by observing the speed and distance of many different galaxies. The speed of distant galaxies is precisely measured by the red shift in their spectra; the uncertainty is in their distance. There have been two major research groups, who have used different methods of estimating distances, and arrived at significantly different answers, in the 80s differing by a factor of 2. The higher estimate of the expansion rate leads of course to a lower estimate of age, just over 10,000,000,000 years, which turns out to be lower than the estimated age of globular star clusters in the Milky Way, around 15,000,000,000 years. As some astronomers stated it, you can’t be older than your mother! As both groups continue their research, their respective results have moved steadily toward each other’s, narrowing the gap.
One of the key goals of the Hubble Space Telescope was to observe Cepheid variable stars in galaxies in the Virgo Cluster, which could be used to measure their distance more accurately than before and thus improve the accuracy of the Hubble constant. Ground-based telescopes are unable to resolve individual stars at that distance. When this was done, after the repair job on Hubble’s optical system, the result was in the range of previous estimates but still toward the higher end, and thus lower age. This was what made headlines in the mid-90s. But it was not the end of the story.
The Hipparcos satellite made high-precision measurements of the positions and motions of several hundred thousand stars in the mid-90s, and the results were published in 1998. This gave new, accurate distances to stars out to about 500 light years; the previous range was less than 200. For the first time, this gave direct measurements of the distances of the nearest Cepheid variables, and resulted in a small but significant correction in the calibration of their distances. This correction raises the estimate of the age of the universe and lowers the estimate of the age of the globular clusters, bringing the two very near acceptable agreement.
Another major research topic has been to attempt to measure the rate of change of the expansion of the universe. The primary means used has been to observe very distance supernovae, since that is the brightest well-understood object known at present. The result amazingly seems to indicate that the expansion rate is actually accelerating, not decelerating as expected. This means the expansion in the past has been slower than previously assumed, which further raises the estimated age and perhaps removes the discrepancy between the age of the universe and the age of the oldest star clusters. This is a preliminary result, announced in 1998, and it is definitely not the end of the story.
It is impossible now (2000) to predict the outcome. The various estimates of the age of the universe may soon be satisfactorily reconciled, or new contradictions may appear. For this book, it is sufficient to say that research continues, and recent-creationists’ announcements of the death of Big-Bang cosmology are very premature. Be that as it may, there is nothing here that gives any support to a 10,000-year age of the universe. Recent-creationists’ only resort is still created age.
Our final look at the Big Bang considers whether it could create life. Evolutionists of course are happy to try to jump on the Big Bang’s bandwagon of apparent success and popularity, and try to link stellar evolution to biological evolution. The appropriate response is to kick them off the wagon, not burn the wagon. Of course the Big Bang can’t create life (ch. 6, II). Storks can’t bring babies, but that does not prove storks do not exist or cannot bring other things, even baby storks.
Now for the questions about the formation of the solar system. In response to the usual accounts of this, recent-creationists enjoy rebutting with “Were you there?” and the assertion that God was there so we should listen to His story. We have already discussed the content of His story, and found it is not necessarily recent creation. Another matter to point out is that recent-creationists make many confident assertions about what could not have happened, claiming that a gas and dust cloud could not possibly form planets and satellites and so on. An appropriate response to such claims is “Were you there?”
This too has been extensively studied in computer simulations, though it requires many more assumptions and approximations than the simulation of the structure and changes of a star. There is no inherent violation of known physical principles, especially not the Second Law of thermodynamics, which was discussed earlier. But this is another instance of the principle that what is not fully understood is not therefore necessarily impossible, for instance rain and lightning. It is also an instance of the principle that lack of total understanding is not total lack of understanding.
It is interesting to note that recent-creationists cannot imagine particles collecting to form planets in the early solar system, but they can imagine meteor dust piling up gently on the surface of the moon. The computer models portray particles in similar orbits in the early solar system meeting one another at tiny relative speeds, and including much icy material that would easily stick together. In Saturn’s rings, presumably formed from the breakup of a satellite or comet, motions have settled down to precisely concentric orbits in a plane about 10 m thick. Adjacent objects move past one another at a rate that is almost imperceptible if you could ride on one of them, too slow for either coalescence or breakup. At the other extreme, the asteroid belt now is a demolition derby of elliptical orbits intersecting at suicidal relative velocities, which is a result of eons of perturbation by massive nearby Jupiter. Recent-creationists’ comparison of the early solar system with any of these other situations is invalid.
Recent-creationists make another pair of contradictory objections, that the solar system is both too orderly and too chaotic to result from a process instead of direct creation. I have seen these two claims listed side-by-side in a recent-creationist article, and when I wrote a letter to the author he still totally failed to see the problem and replied only with theological arguments. As an example of orderliness, recent-creationists point to the fact that the axial rotation and orbital revolutions of the planets are mostly in the same direction. However, Venus turns very slowly in the opposite direction, and Uranus and Pluto are tipped approximately on their sides; this makes three out of nine that are exceptions. So there is an undeniable trend, but hardly a high degree of order. The four major moons of Jupiter are a model of order, but many smaller ones are obviously the aftermath of accidents, one group being in reverse orbits. Saturn has its own retinue of very assorted satellites. Neptune has a major moon going the wrong direction, and a small one in a highly elliptical orbit. Pluto’s orbit is eccentric and inclined 17°. The solar system contains countless small objects that are essentially bouncing in a pinball machine; see the earlier discussion of comets and meteors. This is precisely what would result from a natural process that is still ongoing.
The origin of the moon is a particularly interesting case. Its slow recession from the earth was discussed earlier. Recent-creationists insist that there is no satisfactory explanation of its origin. The astronomical community has generally come to accept the collision theory as most nearly adequate. Such a collision is of course highly improbable. But Christians of all people should be able to believe in God’s providential arrangement of such events to accomplish His purposes. This was discussed in the earlier section on Biblical considerations.
The angular momentum distribution in the solar system raises a good question; the contracting gas cloud should have left the sun with a very high rotation speed. But there are possible solutions for this problem. Newly forming stars (T-Tauri stars) have jets of gas escaping from their poles; this could carry away considerable angular momentum. Also, in the plane of the rotating disk, during the process of contraction turbulence would constantly be transporting angular momentum outward. In the inner regions where the temperature is high enough to ionize the gas and produce a plasma, magnetic fields would also have a strong influence, similarly resisting differences in rotation rate and thus transporting angular momentum outward. The earliest stages of a newly-formed star include a period of rapid mass loss from its outermost layers, which also would carry away angular momentum. This process continues even now in the solar wind, though it is at present a negligible effect. So there is not an absolutely proven solution to the angular momentum problem, but there is a possible one. That possible one is not recent creation.
Radioisotope dating methods have received varying degrees of emphasis in the scientific community as a whole, and in recent-creationist literature. One videotape in the Origins series devotes nearly half its time to criticizing these methods. Notice that in my presentation we don’t even mention it until this near the end. It is neither a primary nor a crucial factor in the decision between recent creation and long ages. In giving it such emphasis recent-creationists divert attention away from many other aspects in which their arguments are deficient.
The importance of these dating methods is that they are hopefully the most quantitative method available to geologists; everything else is relative, based on the sequence of layers, and times are only estimated from assumed rates of formation. So this is an important factor in establishing the geological time-scale, or at least confirming the estimates made on other bases.
Recent-creationists list many examples of inconsistent results from dating methods. One ongoing project is obtaining datings on rocks from the Grand Canyon, including lava flows from upper layers that are therefore at least geologically recent and a few even within recorded history. Their conclusion is that most datings are inconsistent with the usually assumed geological time scale, and therefore are disregarded. A few results of course do fit expectations, and those are published.
This is a valid complaint, but it does not totally discredit the method. There are instances in which many measurements do give consistent results. The textbook example is dating of the Hawaiian Island volcano string, which gives progressively older ages for obviously more eroded islands sequentially down the row.
Recent-creationists point out three basic assumptions in these dating methods, and claim all three are false. They have a good case about uncertainties in initial composition, and in some cases about contamination during the intervening period. But in questioning the constancy of the decay rates, they destroy their credibility and unfortunately divert attention from the other two points.
The decay rates of radioactive elements are determined by the properties within the nucleus, which is virtually unaffected by anything that happens to the atom from outside. That is why, for instance, fusion only occurs at extremely high temperatures and pressures, such as in the core of a star or in a nuclear explosion. The very existence of a rock proves that it has never undergone such conditions since it first solidified.
Recent-creationists give footnote references to some radioactive decay processes that have been observed to depend on pressure, but give no details about what decay processes. The only one of which I am aware is decay by the capture of an inner-shell electron, which can be affected by pressure which slightly forces that electron nearer the nucleus. But this effect is slight, and none of the dating methods involve this decay process. So it is irrelevant to a debate claiming many zeros (orders of magnitude) of error in the computed age.
The only other external factor which can influence decay rates is high-energy radiation. But recent-creationists have never stated any feasible model of what kind of radiation, when it occurred, and how it is confirmed by the observed results of dating measurements. Such radiation is absorbed very rapidly; fortunately for us, most of the radiation from space is stopped high in the atmosphere. If any large amount of radiation reached the surface, enough to really invalidate dating measurements, it would be dangerous and perhaps fatal to living things. What reached the surface would be quickly absorbed by the rocks within a few meters at most, not penetrating deeply to, say, several kilometers. The only way radiation could penetrate deeply is to be very weakly absorbed and therefore have little influence, such as neutrinos that pass through the entire earth with virtually no interaction. There is no possible case in which high-energy radiation could have a systematic effect invalidating radioactive dating methods.
ICR began in 1998 a major research project aimed to produce a recent-creationist reinterpretation of the entire subject of radioisotope dating methods, not merely criticize its deficiencies. This is a commendable project, and it will be interesting to see the result in a few years. But with a miraculous recent creation to determine the initial composition, and other miraculous interventions always imaginable where needed, they have enough variables at their disposal to explain any possible case. So it dubious whether any really significant conclusions can come from the project. Recent-creationists ridicule fields like Big-Bang cosmology, claiming that it has so many unknown adjustable variables that the purported confirmations are meaningless. This is a double standard.
The lack of comets from outside the solar system in the past 300 years of scientific observation is an interesting point. Astronomers have raised this question too. Perhaps it is merely a statistical fluke, like the dearth of naked-eye supernovae from 1604 to 1987. Recent-creationists suggest it indicates that there has not been enough time for a comet to reach us from another solar system. This is another “not yet” evidence, which is only waiting to be disproved sooner or later.
Perhaps it means solar systems are not common. This point will at least make progress in the next few years, as it is becoming possible to detect the existence of planets orbiting other stars. So far (2000) only preliminary results are in, but already several dozen planets outside the solar system are known, and this number is certain to continue rising rapidly in the next few years. The methods used are sensitive to the largest and closest planets, which produce the largest influence on the motions of the stars, so of course the planets detected so far are very large and close. In fact astronomers are surprised how many such planets they have found, and are at a loss to account for their existence. As the methods are improved, they will be able to detect smaller and farther planets, and perhaps by ten years from now there will be sufficient data to indicate some patterns in the nature of solar systems. Results so far do give hints that stable systems like ours are rare.
Another bit of evidence is the detection of large disks of dust around some nearby young stars, which in a few cases have a hole near the center, perhaps indicating that planets have already formed there. Stand by for many further developments in the next few years. If solar systems are rare, that only adds to the evidence for God’s providential guidance in the formation and survival of this one. If they are common, that weakens recent-creationists’ insistence that only direct creation could produce a solar system, though of course they can always insist that it only shows God created a lot of solar systems. The high or low frequency of occurrence of solar systems is irrelevant to the truth or falsehood of recent-creationism.
It is interesting to note, though, that a portion of the dust entering the atmosphere from outer space has unique isotopic compositions different from that of meteorites and comets; it appears to be interstellar dust. This has been known for a number of years. In recent years, radar tracking of tiny meteors also indicates some are coming from outside the solar system. In fact, most of them are on paths pointing back to a particular nearby star, Beta Pictoris, which is known to possess a large dust disk. Either these particles were created as is already on their way, or they formed in the vicinity of another star and have taken millions of years to reach us, at least far more than 6000 years.
Dust particles can only form in the atmosphere of stars; the density in gas clouds between stars is too low to produce any significant rate of condensation of solid particles. One recent-creationist book uses this fact to argue that interstellar dust particles could only have been created, neglecting the possibility of formation near stars.
If the lack of interstellar comets is quoted by recent-creationists as evidence against a long time period since the creation of the universe, then is the existence of interstellar meteors evidence for a long time period? What would recent-creationists say if an interstellar comet did appear? I doubt they would all accept it as fatal evidence against recent creation, and abandon that position. It must have been created. So this point is irrelevant to the truth or falsehood of recent creation.
Concluding summary and evaluationThis finally finishes the discussion of the evidence and logic commonly presented in support of recent creation and against long ages. Every item can be classified under one or more of the following categories: factually incorrect, true but irrelevant, or true but inconclusive (including all the “not yet observed or explained” items). It can be viewed as inconclusive in individual detail but cumulatively persuasive; if it weren’t right, why would so many pieces seemingly fit together so well? On the other hand, it can be viewed as cumulatively incompetent and inconclusive and therefore the whole thing crumbles like a proverbial house of cards or row of dominoes leaning on each other. Why do so many of the purported pieces fail to fit together, and in fact fit a different viewpoint? If it is right, why do its supporters feel the need to grasp at so many straws and commit so many logical and factual errors? It is disconcerting to see well-intentioned, capable, educated people enmeshed in such a self-reinforcing web of confusion, so much so that it makes you wonder if you can trust your own rationality. We can only take this as a reminder to proceed with humility and caution. I hope the reader feels I have achieved that difficult goal, and you will attempt to do likewise.
Recent-creationists sometimes admit that there are many weaknesses in their materials, but they plead that at least they are trying, and should be given credit for doing the best they could with admittedly inadequate backgrounds. But they are not willing to be as generous with the efforts of others, such as Hugh Ross, who come to different conclusions, such as long-age creation.
Now I have some questions for recent-creationists. First, a Biblical and theological question. If all this is not sufficient reason to reconsider recent creation, then what would be? If recent creation is a mistaken interpretation of God’s Word, how could God Himself tell them so? It becomes a box, a trap, with no escape. God, Whose Son called Himself the Truth, need not place us in such a box. Cult groups like Mormons make subjective feelings and loyalty to authoritative leaders the basis of faith, setting aside all possible consideration of facts and leaving no way that God Himself could convince them otherwise, and this is one of many reasons we do not believe such cults.
Next, some scientific questions. Why are all the constants of physics, the chemical composition of the universe, and the solar system’s structure and location in the universe, so precisely consistent with an interpretation in terms of a multi-billion-year process, if God created the universe instantly in its present form and only needs the universe and the earth to exist for a few thousand years? If God created the universe recently, fully formed and functioning, and did so as a demonstration of His power, why did He disguise it so carefully? It is easy to imagine many ways things could be created so as to make the assumption of such a long past process clearly impossible; but He did not.
Re-emphasizing a question already raised, when were all the craters in the solar system formed?
If recent-creationists will not listen to these comments from their friends, then they will have to continue to listen to them from their enemies.
ConclusionFinally we have completed the discussion of the commonly listed scientific evidences for recent creation and against long ages and the Big Bang. No doubt I have missed a few, but this at least covers all that are being widely publicized at present. After investigation, they fall into several categories: most are factually in error, logically fallacious, or irrelevant. A few of the best are uncertain and inconclusive, not sufficient basis to overthrow the entire long-age viewpoint and establish recent creation in its place.
Now that we have discussed both the Biblical and scientific support claimed for recent creation, we can make an observation. There seems to be a circular reinforcement between recent-creationist theologians and scientists. The scientists are confident that they should interpret the data in this way even when there are uncertainties and alternatives, because they are convinced the theologians have proved that this is the clear teaching of the Bible. The theologians, though reluctant to admit it, are greatly reassured in their recent-creation interpretation of the Bible, because they are convinced that their scientist friends have found abundant clear scientific evidence to confirm it. Both groups would be much more soft-spoken and open to alternatives if they realized how dubious the other one’s case is.
As introduced in ch. 5, I, F, there must be thresholds for points of science and theology to be subject to review due to conflicting input from the other. Because God’s Word and God’s world cannot conflict, we can be certain that there will not be seemingly insurmountable thresholds on both sides in a point of conflict. If this occurs, we must have overestimated at least one of the thresholds. Recent-creationists have placed the threshold for recent-creation theology at the insurmountable level, citing arguments from Biblical interpretation and from related theological considerations. The conclusion of this chapter is that that threshold is nowhere near insurmountable, in fact it is quite low, therefore open to reconsideration and possible revision. I personally feel that the threshold is below ground, overcome by Biblical considerations alone, even without scientific ones. On the other hand, science gives a very high threshold for long ages for the universe and the Earth, and even recent-creationists themselves confirm this point by their need for the concept of apparent age. It seems that this is a case in which theology would benefit by accepting corrective input from science.
As stated at the beginning of this long chapter, my goal is not to disprove recent creation, only to point out flaws in the support for it which is widely publicized. With that support removed, the reader is free to choose whether to continue to accept the recent-creationist conclusion. Therefore for now the age of the universe need not be considered an apparent conflict between the Bible and nature, nor an obstacle to faith in the Bible’s God.
Nearly 400 years ago, Galileo turned out to be right for some wrong reasons, and his critics were wrong for some right reasons. Thus it is still conceivably possible that recent creation is true and long-age creation is false.
Sources for further information:Books and organizations promoting recent creation were listed at the end of sec. I.
At least four organizations produce material similar to that in sec. II.
ARN: Access Research Network, P. O. Box 38069, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80937-8069. Phone (719) 633-1772. www.arn.orgThis organization was founded as Students for Origins Research, and initially took a recent-creation viewpoint, largely because there was no coherent alternative available at the time. But it has long since shifted into the long-age camp.Books presenting viewpoints other than recent creation:
Foundation for Thought and Ethics, P. O. Box 830721, Richardson, Texas 75083-0721. Fax (214) 669-9339
IBRI: Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute, P. O. Box 423, Hatfield, PA 19440. www.ibri.org
RTB: Reasons to Believe, P. O. Box 5978, Pasadena, California 91117. Phone (818) 335-1480. www.reasons.org This is Hugh Ross's organization.
By Christians advocating a position similar to my own, in chronological order:
Genesis One and the Origin of the Earth, Robert C. Newman and Herman J. Eckelmann, Jr. Hatfield, PA: IBRI. 1977. ISBN 0-944788-97-1By Christians, containing some opinions with which I disagree, because they lean toward a liberal view on the authority of the Bible. But they have many important comments about recent creation, and their science is competent.
The Genesis Connection, John Wiester. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 1983. ISBN 0-8407-5296-2
Evolution: Nature and Scripture in Conflict?, Pattle P. T. Pun. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan. 1982. ISBN 0-310-42561-1
The Mystery of Life's Origin: Reassessing Current Theories, Charles B. Thaxton, Walter L. Bradley, Roger L. Olsen. New York: Philosophical Library. 1984. ISBN 0-8022-2447-4. Also later editions.
Creation and Evolution, Rethinking the Evidence from Science and the Bible, Alan Hayward. Minneapolis: Bethany House. 1985. ISBN 1-55661-679-1
Neglect of Geologic Data, Sedimentary Strata Compared with Young-Earth Creationist Writings, Daniel E. Wonderly. Hatfield, PA: IBRI. 1987. ISBN 0-944788-00-9
Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins, Percival Davis, Dean H. Kenyon. Dallas, Texas: Haughton. 1989. ISBN 0-914513-00-12
The Fingerprint of God, Recent Scientific Discoveries Reveal the Unmistakable Identity of the Creator, Hugh Ross. Orange, California: Promise Publishing. 1989. ISBN 0-939497-18-2
A Brief History of Eternity, Roy E. Peacock. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, Good News, 1990. A specific response to Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. ISBN 0-89107-573-9
Darwin on Trial, Phillip E. Johnson. Washington, DC.: Regnery Gateway. 1991. ISBN 0-89526-535-4
Darwinism: Science or Philosophy? Proceedings of the Conference on Darwinism and Intelligent Design, March, 1992. Richardson, Texas: Foundation for Thought and Ethics. 1994.
The Creator and the Cosmos, How the Greatest Scientific Discoveries of the Century Reveal God, Hugh Ross. Colorado Springs: NavPress. 1993. ISBN 0-89109-700-7
Creation and Time, A Biblical and Scientific Perspective on the Creation-Date Controversy, Hugh Ross. Colorado Springs: NavPress. 1994. ISBN 0-89109-776-7
The Creation Hypothesis: Scientific Evidence for an Intelligent Designer, J. P. Moreland ed. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity. 1994. ISBN 0-8308-1698-4
Show Me God, What the Message from Space Is Telling Us About God, Fred Heeren. Wheeling, Illinois: Searchlight Publications. 1995. ISBN 1-885849-51-6. There have been two more recent editions.
The Battle of Beginnings: Why Neither Side Is Winning the Creation-Evolution Debate. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1996. ISBN 0-8308-1529-S. Basically says that neither side understands or responds to the other, and neither side understands science. He calls his position “theistic evolution,” but it is very near my own, which I prefer to call “progressive creation.” Insightful, constructive. I wish I could be as clear, and as humorous.
The Genesis Question, Hugh Ross. Colorado Springs: Navigator Press, 1999. 1-576831116
A Biblical Case for an Old Earth, David Snoke. Hatfield, PA: IBRI, 1999
Christianity and the Age of the Earth, Davis A. Young. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 1982This book fits in no other category; it gives a comprehensive presentation of the evidence for intelligent design, but the (agnostic) authors attribute it all to chance:
The Fourth Day, What the Bible and the Heavens are telling us about the Creation, Howard J. VanTill. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans. 1986. ISBN 0-80028-0178-1
Science Held Hostage, What's Wrong with Creation Science AND Evolutionism, Howard J. VanTill, Davis A. Young, Clarence Menninga. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity. 1988. ISBN 0-8308-1253-9
Portraits of Creation, Biblical and Scientific Perspectives on the World's Formation, Howard J. VanTill ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. 1990. ISBN 0-8028-0485-3
The Biblical Flood: A Case Study of the Church’s Response to Extrabibilical Evidence, Davis A. Young. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995. ISBN 0-8028-0719-4
The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tipler. New York: Oxford University. 1986. ISBN 0-19-851949-4
An atheist criticizing the Big Bang:
The Big Bang Never Happened, Eric Lerner. New York: Random House. 1991. ISBN 0-8129-1853-3. His viewpoint is not generally accepted by the scientific community. Among other things, he denies the Second Law of thermodynamics!This book is a history of creationism by a former Seventh-Day-Adventist who now describes himself as an agnostic, and attributes his loss of faith to his disillusionment with recent-creationism. Ironically, the specific case he cites is the multiple layers of petrified forests in Yellowstone Park, which the geologists themselves have since reinterpreted under pressure of recent-creationists’ study of the detailed characteristics of the formation.
The Creationists, The Evolution of Scientific Creationism, Ronald L. Numbers. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 1992. ISBN 0-679-40104-0